A Review of Interviewing, by Gail Sedorkin and Judy McGregor

 The book is full of some really useful information and tips, which even experienced interviewers will find helpful, such as making sure you ask the “Who Cares” question – eg who is affected, etc. and making sure that you don’t ask questions to which the answers are readily available. There are a number of web based resources listed, mainly Australian and New Zealand ones, along with check lists, case studies, and tips for things like getting good quotes.

Review by Magdalena Ball

Interviewing: A Guide for Journalists and Writers
by Gail Sedorkin and Judy McGregor
Allen & Unwin
8 March 2002, RRP A$21.95
ISBN: 1-86508701-7

I’ll never forget my first interview. My interviewee was a famous author, and he was over an hour late. Although I spent a lot of time preparing my questions, my attitude was fawning, I spent too much time demonstrating my own knowledge of the author’s work, and the resulting copy was lackluster and devoid of detail. Interterviewing: A Guide for Journalists and Writers aims to help interviewers avoid these sorts of pitfalls by providing a set by step guide to conducting a perfect interview. There are chapters on interviewing styles, conducting research, preparing for an interview, how to arrange an interview, putting together an icebreaker, writing questions, The different types of interviews including print, broadcast, e-mail and telephone, and specific tips for working with each kind, ways of using your interview information, and how to keep safe in both a personal sense, and a legal one.

There are many anecdotes and examples from well known Interviewers, mostly in the broadcast area, including Kerry O’Brien, Martin Bashir, Paul Lineham, Jana Wendt, Al Morrison, Peter Hawes, Florence Houghton, and a host of other award winning journalists. These names probably wouldn’t mean a lot however to readers outside of Australia or New Zealand, and the structure of the media is also distinctive to the Antipodes. The information provided however will still be useful to potential interviewers outside of Australia and New Zealand. Another mild criticism of the book is that, since the authors are both experts in the field of journalism, the book is also very focused on the types of interviewing that journalists have to do, and all of the examples are from journalists. Since the book is meant to appeal to a broad group of interviewers, it would have been useful to have examples from some well known arts interviewers like Margaret Throsby. The guide is still relevant though for writers who aren’t journalists, as the basic principles remain the same.

The book is full of some really useful information and tips, which even experienced interviewers will find helpful, such as making sure you ask the “Who Cares” question – eg who is affected, etc. and making sure that you don’t ask questions to which the answers are readily available. There are a number of web based resources listed, mainly Australian and New Zealand ones, along with check lists, case studies, and tips for things like getting good quotes.

The authors are both experienced in journalism. Sedorkin is a journalism lecturer at Deakin University, and has both newspaper and radio experience, and McGregor is the Head of the Department of Communication and Journalism at Massy University (with 20 years journalism and editing experience), and together they have both have a significant understanding of the journalism processes. There are few professions today which don’t involve interviewing of one type or another, whether you are a freelance writer, a journalist, work in the corporate world, or just need to extract information from your fellow man. For the freelancer, if you haven’t already started using interviews to add interest and flexibility to your work, this book will inspire you to start. Interviews are at the heart of all good research pieces, and doing one for the first time can be daunting. A good guide like Interviewing: A Guide for Journalists and Writers will help you avoid some of the more common traps, and provide you with tools to make the process smoother.

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