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Talking your way to the truth, mastering the interview

By Chelsea Sheasley

The interview is at the heart of all reporting, but mastering it can take a lifetime. In IRE 2012’s panel Talking your way to the truth: The art of the interview, three veteran reporters shared their tips on what it takes to get sources to talk and how to get key information from an interview.

John Ferrugia of KGMH-Denver, Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Ira Rosen of 60 Minutes talked about interviewing techniques for both print and television.

The panelists stressed preparation as key to the interview. “I want to know as much or more about the subject” than the person I’m interviewing, Ferrugia said, before showing a clip where he caught the superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy misspeaking about school rules.

Rutledge suggested putting Google Alerts on your interview subjects and doing Lexus searches on them.  She also recommended taping the interviews and listening to them through at least twice. “It’s amazing what you’ll hear that you didn’t hear the first time,” she said.

Rosen shared techniques he gleaned from many years of collaboration with the late Mike Wallace, his colleague at 60 Minutes and mentor who hired him when Rosen was 26 years old with six months of television experience.

“Mike’s genius that got him so far is that he had an underdeveloped sense of another person’s privacy,” Rosen said.

“There were no embarrassing questions,” Rosen said Wallace was fond of saying. “Only embarrassing answers.”

Chelsea Sheasley is a graduate student at Boston University College of Communication.

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