Interview story

The purpose of this segment of the individual story is to give you experience interviewing, a difficult skill for new media writers to develop. To help you, we’re taking it in simple, broken-down steps. You will conduct an interview with a single subject for your story. You’ll then write a 1.5-page story (fewer than 500 words) to help you translate the interview, which can be something of a rambling conversation, into a cohesive, structured story that relates information thematically and effectively. This story builds on the skills you learned when you wrote feature leads and nut grafs. You can think of this story as a “profile” piece of an important source in your IS.

In the interview, take copious and careful notes. Record all interviews on audio for use in your audio story and social promotion package, but always assume that you don’t have that backup so your notes can stand alone (you wouldn’t believe how often recorders fail or how tight deadlines rob you of the time to listen again and transcribe).

Type up your interview notes, including as many verbatim quotes as you can. Transcribing the audio file will be helpful, especially because you’ll be coming back to these notes later. Attach all these typed notes to the story you turn in, so your TA can better understand what you’ve chosen to use and omit.

Write a 1.5-page story (double-spaced), incorporating only the information you gleaned from your interview. Again, remember that all good pieces flow from good leads.

You’ll also use this assignment to learn when to use direct quotes and when to paraphrase. So much of what people say isn’t worth quoting directly. You need to concentrate on turns of phrase that are particularly pithy or compelling.

Head your assignment with your approved story angle and a list of the specific communication values your story fulfills (e.g., proximity, conflict, etc.).


Q: What is actually due with the interview story?

A: Your completed story (less than 500 words), any notes you took during or after the interview, and a transcript of your interview.

Q: Do you have any examples of great interview stories of the past?

A: Here is one, and here is another. Note that these pieces are already in the layout format (something you do later on). Right now, your stories will just be a headline and the body of the story.

Q: I work for The Badger Herald or The Daily Cardinal and want to use what I produce in 202 as publishing material. May I?

A: Once it is submitted for a grade in 202, yes, you can as long as you cleared it with your sources IN ADVANCE of trying to publish it. You cannot tell sources, “Will you let me interview you for a class project,” decide it was awesome and then put it in the paper. 

Q: Can the interview source I use for this story appear in other parts of the IS later, such as the final story?

A: The person you interview for your interview piece may very well appear in other parts of your IS. The only thing you can’t do is repeat quotes across stories — which shouldn’t be a problem because the focus of the stories should be quite different from one another. The interview story is all about the person. What’s special about this one person and how are they connected to your overarching topic? The interviewee may provide quotes for your other stories, but those quotes would focus less on the person and more on the topic. 

Q: I had an interview canceled or my source backed out. Now what? Can I get an extension?

A:  Nope. You will need to find another person to interview. We treat deadlines the way we do because that’s how they operate in the real world. If a source doesn’t call you back at your TV reporting job, the news still starts at 6 p.m., or if you’re gathering information for an agency report, your client will still walk in the door at 9 a.m. You have to have something. This is also why we ask you to create a source list — there will be more than one person who could work out for this assignment.

Q: Do we need a headline for this story?

A: Yes. And that goes for every component of the IS.

Q: Is the version we turn in the version our TA will grade? Or do we get to make changes to it later on? 

A: What you turn in is what your TA will grade. The only thing you’ll do a draft for is your main story.