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Sneak Peek of Interviewing: The Oregon Method

August 28, 2019

Interviewing: The Oregon Method (2nd edition), edited by Peter Laufer with John Russial, is one of our newest fall selections. With additional chapters featuring information for both digital and traditional journalism, it instructs readers on the art of interviewing. And what better way to share the best of the guide than by featuring our favorite parts? Here are seven stand-out tips from the faculty at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and other experts:

  1. “Cornelius Ryan, the novelist who wrote The Longest Day, said one of the basic rules of reporting was that you should ‘never interview anyone without knowing 60 percent of the answers’” (“The Art of the Interview,” Jack Hart, page 39)
  2. “If you catch sources in a lie, your impulse will be to call them out. Don’t—at least not right away. Your goal should be to keep sources talking until they’ve shared all the relevant details. That’s because the moment you confront them, they’ll likely get defensive.” (“How to Interview Somebody Who’s Lying,” Todd Milbourn, page 72)
  3. “The rules of interview discourse and interpersonal exchange have changed with the times. Contemporary audiences don’t want to be ‘talked to’; they want to be ‘engaged with.’ Engagement implies higher levels of participation and less formality. This is the essence of rapport.” (“Creating Rapport,” Ed Madison, page 202)
  4. “In many of my encounters with people in grief, my ‘technique’ was simply showing up and shutting up. That’s my five-word crash course on the topic. The showing up part is critical. It’s the one aspect that we have control over.” (“god bless the ded,” Alex Tizon, page 232)
  5. “Try this exercise: Sit down as you normally would, and write all the regular first-line questions that you expect to ask in your next interview. Then don’t ask any of those questions. This is going to force you to find new lines of questioning that will reveal facets of the story that are usually left unexplored.” (“Please Don’t Ask That Again,” Michael Swan Laufer, page 340)
  6. “Interviewing—if interviewing means asking questions to get responses—does have a function, albeit limited: If you want a quick opinion about something you deem important, a quote or a sound bite to fit into a story, then ask the appropriate person. Otherwise, I would suggest that journalists consider more authentic, more thoughtful ways of delving into the personality and the peccadilloes, the motivations and challenges, the beliefs, attitudes, quirks (you name it) of a person important to the story they are crafting.” (“Re-Thinking the Interview,” Lauren Kessler, page 377)
  7. “Control the architecture of the interview venue. Don’t accept a seat on a low couch while the interviewee choreographs a dominant role behind the massive desk.” (“Epilogue,” Peter Laufer, page 396)
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