Overcome the Fear of Conducting an Interview

One of the most powerful ways for citizen journalists to get information for a story is through personal interviews with people who have the information they need.

But many acting and aspiring citizen journalists talk about the apprehension they have about conducting interviews. They wonder how they will muster up the courage to approach strangers or high profile individuals and begin asking questions.

So how do you overcome that fear?

I'll use myself as an example. Because I am basically a very shy person, I learned to deal with this in a couple of ways.

First, I recognize that we are all people who put our trousers on the same way each day - one leg at a time. That puts us at a low common denominator.

Second, I identify myself and say that I'm working as a citizen journalist writing for ePluribus Media, the Berthoud Surveyor, YourHub.com or whatever publication or news outlet I'm writing for at the time. That information gives me some authenticity and a reason for asking questions.

Third, I realize that we all have a job to do, whether it's a football coach who just lost a big game, a county commissioner who voted on a controversial issue or a citizen journalist.

As citizen journalists, we are just doing our jobs - to inform the public about what is happening in our communities. To do that, we need to get as much information as possible.

You can tell the commissioner that his or her constituents will want an explanation of his or her vote. You will be saving the commissioner time in phone calls, etc., by including that side of the story in your article. Same for the coach, school principal, whoever.

So as shy as I am, that's the way I deal with it. I put on my reporter's cap and I'm doing my job - asking questions to inform the public and forgetting that I'm shy.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (www.nacj.us) and co-author of the "Handbook for Citizen Journalists" (www.citizenjournalistnow.com).

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It read like a comic strip. I was trying to convince others that if they had a phone they had the first tool of digging up their own story and that they could and should "Be the Media".

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"YOU CAN TOO!

To be realistic about it all, YOU cannot afford to sit back and wait for the next breaking story from the MSM. If you haven't noticed yet, that story isn't coming from them anytime soon.

But YOU can try to write it!
(I told you this was a story about YOU! Just took me a while to get there, OK?)

Here is what YOU have to do:

The next time that you know there is news coming out don't just sit back and wait for it to break elsewhere... Pick up a phone and call the likely sources of information yourself. Set up an appointment through their staffers to go to their offices if they are nearby. Ask them for a quote. Ask them for their opinion.

Ask the god-damned follow up questions yourselves. The questions that no one in the MSM will ask!

Then get behind your keyboard and start writing your own personal scoop!

As I mentioned earlier, the analysis that most of the Blogosphere gives is extremely useful, and given the quality of the writings by many of YOU Bloggers, the entertainment value of them is often top-notch as well. Most of YOU have already developed the skills to make that leap into real journalism.

Do yourselves, and your readers a favour:

Follow RawStory's initiative
and take the leap.

If it helps you to decide to finally make this leap from being a Blogger and crossing over into real journalism, well, I have read most of your Blogs and diaries already.

I think YOU can do it.  

If that doesn't help you decide, well, maybe $money$ can be your driving force to make the leap?

NOTE TO ALL SUCH CONSPIRATORS:

On September 15th, VR posted a $100,000 reward for new information implicating senior White House Officials in the outing of Valerie Plame, so quick cooperation can not only limit jail time but also result in substantial income** But if their past decisions are any indication, the conspirators will go down with the ship, believing until the end that George Bush will pardon them for their crimes, which he will not do if he too is indicted, and which he may not do if he wants to maintain a legacy better than Richard Nixon.

There is 100,000 great reasons to get involved NOW!

"Well I'll do anything in this godalmighty world If you just let me follow you down."

Here is how easy it really is:

Picking up the phone...
(Calling a source here. Give me a minute, OK?)


CT Man1(Drinking Liberally in New Milford): Will Wurmser and/or Hannah be notified of this reward offered by VelvetRevolutions if they should qualify to claim it?

Ilene Proctor (VelevetRevolution PR spokesperson): I don't know.

That wasn't too hard, eh? Wow! I did it.
You can too!

I also asked Mrs. Proctor about the possibility of Bloggers qualifying for the reward and she said that VelevetRevolution would have to make any final decisions on who might qualify for it.

Relatively painless...
Unless, of course, you take notes as slowly as I do?

Ask a question and get an answer. Now, all of the sudden I have just crossed the line from Blogging into journalism. Or, at the very least, I have blurred the line between the two. Yes, they were silly questions given the mountains of information we have to work with.

But it means that I can do it.
And YOU can too!"

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The funniest part of that "first time interview"? I am pretty darn sure the interviewee read the post. snickers

Susan Carson Cormier's picture

In my opinion, you have made your way across the line from blogger to citizen journalist. The difference between the two is that bloggers tend to comment on others' reports. Citizen journalists do their own research and interviews to produce their own stories. And, as you noted, it's not that hard. Congrats!

Susan Carson Cormier
Head Coach, National Association of Citizen Journalists
susanc@nacj.us
www.nacj.us