If you’re a journalist, or in the process of being one, you might find these ‘tips’ helpful as they’re what I’ve picked up on my journey as a journalism student:
1. Don’t take no for an answer
This might sound bothersome but interviews are a vital part of journalism and no story is complete without a good quote or two. You’ll often find people unwilling to give you their time. There is no trick to get them to agree, besides not accepting their refusal. Keep pestering them in a charming, pleading, coaxing way until they have to talk to you.
Things like “I’d just like a really quick 10 minute interview – we can do it over lunch,” and “this might be a good chance for some publicity as this could be published on the Bristol 2015 website” usually work well. In the end, after two weeks of conversing, you may only get a 10 minute interview but it will be good enough!
2. Don’t be afraid to explore unchartered territory on your own
It is a cruel, cruel world and while we all would like to have a friend accompany us to what sound like daunting locations, it is not always possible to have someone by your side. If you sniff a good story, don’t be afraid to go out there alone and capture it – it is difficult to do it all on your own, yes, but it is better than having to wait for someone to make the time and end up losing the story.
Just make sure you’re armed with a fully charged phone (with a GPS), some cash and a strong pepper spray and you’re good to go exploring the unknown! You may get off at the wrong bus stop, get lost, sprain your arm carrying everything, but in the end, you will make it.
3. Internet is not always the best way of communication
This might sound strange in today’s internet-led era but sometimes the old ways come in much more handy than the new ones. Take for instance a recent experience of mine – I was trying to secure an interview as well as a photography session with a Hospice who normally don’t do either of those things. I emailed the marketing team and got a response in a few days politely declining my request.
But, (remember what I said about not taking No for an answer), I didn’t give up and rang up the information desk, explaining my request. The lady said she’d get back to me. I waited a few days then called again. This time she said they don’t really allow this but if I wanted I could come to one of their “professional visitor information sessions” to get info on the Hospice. Bang on. I went to the session, talked to a lot of people, got a couple of photographs and my work was done.
4. Be prepared for adversity
If you’re recording the interviews on a recorder, be prepared for something to go wrong with a backup recording on your phone or by taking notes. If you’re going to film for long hours, always keep an extra battery of your camera. If you’re going to meet someone for the first time, always keep a proof of your previous conversation regarding the meeting in case they ‘fail’ to remember having fixed it.
These are some obvious things but very valuable to remember, especially if setting out alone. I have known many stories to be spoiled by dying batteries, malfunctioning recorders, miscommunication with interviewees and what not.
5. Get your facts straight
Again, a commonly known and obvious point, but one that many of us forget. Sometimes, it is too easy to not double check an offhand statement or a suggested statistic. Next thing you know, someone spots a fact in your story that is actually not a fact. As a student journalist, this might not get you in much trouble but as a professional, it definitely could lead to lots of problems.
Before publishing anything, remember to verify and to cite the source. If it’s a dodgy statement that you really want to put in, make sure you state it’s not your say but your source’s. Even when you go out to cover a story, be it for print, online or video, confirm that the material is authentic. Authentic journalism is true journalism after all.