On November 19, Ideasmyth editorial consultant Katherine Wessling led a seminar on advanced investigative interviewing. The evening’s journalist attendees hailed from countries all over the world and expressed a wide array of skill sets and skill levels, yet all convened at The Writers Room in the hopes of learning to tackle one common source of journalistic anxiety—interviewing.
Much of the night’s discussion stressed the importance of one portion of the interviewing process in particular—the research. Wessling advised attendees to do their homework before every interview, and to not only research relevant facts about the interviewee, but do their best to become familiar with any topics that might come up during the interview. In other words, don’t interview Bill Nye until you know both the history of his time as the “Science Guy” and, if possible, the difference between protons and positrons. Act as a peer, not a clueless or imposing inquisitor—and make sure to fact-check the information the interviewee provides before using it.
Another overarching theme of the night’s discussion—the persuasive powers of kindness and civility. Wessling encouraged seminar attendees to treat an interview like a courting process and avoid doing or saying anything the interviewee might see as rude. Cultivating your source gives him or her more than just a positive impression—it makes him or her more eager to share information and to agree to future interviews. But Wessling also stressed the importance of maintaining control of the interview. “Keep your hand on the tiller,” she said, and keep the conversation focused on getting the information you need.
Wessling shared her wisdom as a seasoned journalist, offering examples from her own career to back up her interviewing tips. With hand on the tiller, Wessling guided seminar attendees towards a state of improved interviewing confidence.
If you would like to meet with Katherine Wessling for a consultation, contact her at KWessling@Ideasmyth.com.