Ask your teachers the real, hard-hitting questions.
Photo credit: Flickr CC user: Al Franken For Senate
“If there’s anything that’s important to a reporter, it is integrity. It is credibility.” – Mike Wallace
Whether it’s quizzing you on your knowledge of applied physics or grilling you on the plot of The Grapes of Wrath, your teachers are often the people asking you the hard-hitting questions not the other way around. Aside from the little information they might share with you in class, you, as a student, don’t really get to do much asking on your end about their personal life. What do they like to do in their free time? Do they have kids? What do they really think about the ending of The Scarlet Letter? Interviewing your teachers, school faculty, and staff for the yearbook will give students a new perspective on the people they’ve come to look up to as mentors and make them appear more approachable overall. Here are some effective interview techniques to try out.
Interviewing someone can be a little nerve-wracking at first. You want to make your interviewee feel comfortable and at ease before you dive into your more difficult questions. As a reporter, it’s up to you to listen intently to what they are saying and look for interesting points to go off from there. Some of the best stories I’ve gotten out of people was when I didn’t stick to the script. While it’s a good habit to write some key questions down so that you don’t forget to cover them, it’s also important to brush up on your conversational skills. Being able to go off the cuff and have a genuine conversation with the person you are writing about can make everyone feel more at ease and open.
Anyone can read questions off of a paper, record the interview, and write out the answers, but it takes a real talent to spin these answers into an interesting and newsworthy story. As you go about interviewing your teacher or one of the faculty members, constantly look for a unique angle to spin your story. If your math teacher mentions they love rock climbing on the weekend, build on that idea. Ask them if they’ve ever dreamed of climbing Mount Everest or if they’ve ever gotten hurt on a climb. You might just uncover a crazy story about someone you used to only view as a math expert.
Don’t be afraid to follow up
One aspect of being a good reporter is to not be afraid to follow up with your subject. You might be writing away and hit a roadblock in your story. For example, you might be deep in your math teacher/rock climbing story when you realize you didn’t ask him how he got into climbing in the first place. Never shy away from going back to the teacher in question and asking a few follow up questions. Not only will they help enrich your story, but it’s good to double check your facts and make sure everything is correct.