Home Introduction to journalism INTERVIEWING AND NEWS SOURCES


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This unit is about interviewing and news sources. Interviewing is a reporter’s basic tool, central activity in his daily job. He uses news sources to achieve his purpose.


On successful study of this unit, you should be able to:

  1.  Explain what is meant by Interview
  2. Describe the essence of an interview
  3. Explain the techniques of good interviewing
  4. Conduct an interview
  5.  Identify the major news sources for gathering data
  6. Identify the kinds of places you should contact when you need certain information under any beat


3.1 Interviewing: Meaning

A large chunk of what a reporter does, to get the necessary data for his stories revolves round meeting and asking people questions. It is the journalist’s tool also, for digging out facts. This is where interview comes in. By way of definition, an interview is “any planned contro lled conversation between two or more people which has and purpose for, at least, one of the participants”. To be effective, therefore, an interview must have (a) Purpose (b) Plan (c) Control interaction. But you can learn a great deal about the art of interview by learning how to interview. It is practically an exercise best learned by experience.The purpose of an interview may be specific depending on the type of
interview. But all interviews are concerned with either obtaining, passing or clarifying information.

3.2 Types of Interview

There are many types of interview open to use by the journalist. The very familiar types are:

  1. Exclusive interview: This is conducted by a reporter representing a single media house without any other reporter participating in it. Any information disclosed during the interview is only known to the reporter.
  2. Panel Interview: This occurs when more than one reporter is seated to throw questions at an invited guest. It is frequently adopted or used by radio and television station
  3.  Vox Populi or Man-in-the-street Interview: “Vox Populi” means the voice of the people. So, this type of interview is conducted by reporters to elicit information from a cross- section of the general public. It could be anybody in the street irrespective of the status or age. There is no fixed rule as to how many responses one must get.
  4.  Personality Interview: This is an interview conducted by a reporter concerning an individual’s life, activities, views, character or personality, etc. The selection of the personality is not limited to those who have gained places in the news stream of ongoing events, e.g. government officials, recognised businessman, traditional ruler, professor or renowned academic, etc. A personality can also be out of the news stream but news worthy, by a special trait of oddity, habit, play, hobby, etc. For instance, a priest who, Sunday after Sunday, preaches to an empty church auditorium deserves a special focus.
  5.  New Interview: An interview with one source is just the beginning of reporting. It can involve asking questions from several people, e.g. investigating a bank robbery. People to interview can include: bank clerks, security men, eye-witness (customers) etc. because time is the reporter’s greatest enemy (deadline), he must be thorough as well as swift. He must ask right questions directed at the right persons.
  6.  Feature Interview: It is a form of article that focuses on an issue of general interest by interviewing one or more persons to present and analyse the issue. It presents a deeper insight into events than in news reports. It also allows for descriptive and stylish techniques not used in news writing usually done around events that have already made news. Reporter would talk to more sources than for news story.
  7. It is a type of creative writing which takes a lot of preparation e,g. of a fatal road accident that claimed many lives. This can motivate a news feature on e.g. for interview with experts in highway, Police Traffic Officers, Road Safety Officials (FRSC), medical officers, drivers of commercial vehicles, and or persons who have survived such accidents etc. what about the Tsunami Disaster? Hurricane Katrina etc?
  8.  Sport News Interview: Reporters interview police officers on crime, fire marshals on causes of fire outbreaks; sports reporters talk to coaches, players for background materials for games stories. In sport news interviews, reporters look for information that will highlight or illustrate the events being described.

3.3 Techniques of Interview

News gathering requires tact, common sense and knowledge of interviewing techniques. Successful interviews are the result of careful planning and preparation on the part of one or both participants. Good interviewers and interviewees are not born but are made. They practice the skill until they appear to be able to do it without much effort. The notable interviewing techniques are:

  1. Preparation: This reminds one of the saying that “perspiration in preparation is inspiration in presentation”. It requires that the reporter must read, research and know much about the person or subject to be discussed in the interview. The reporter must get to know the person’s past, or the views about the subject in the past. It all boils down to preparation.Have Questions Stated: This means that a reporter should prepare a set of basic questions meant for the interview. The approach must not be rigid. It can be structured (e.g. Yes or No unstructured or (the respondent is free to say anything). Allowance answers)should also be made for supplementary questions. With time, you will learn not to strictly rely on a prepared list of questions. The natural informal and conversational order would then prevail
  2.  Use of Mechanical Device: In order to ensure accurate report of what is said during an interview, a tape recorder is recommended for use but care must be taken to avoid situations where the presence of the recorder can disrupt the flow of ideas/response from the interviewee. The person might feel unsafe and exposed to give out information that is recorded.
  3. Appearance: This calls for modesty in your dressing habit. A reporter must be well dressed for an interview. Excessive make-up is undesirable. Remember, there is no second time first impression. 

The first is the first and nothing more.

  1. Be on Time: This calls for an avoidance of African time syndrome. Arrangements should be made for the journalist to be at the venue at least, 30 minutes before time schedule.
  2. Eye Contact: Good interview involves good observation of what is happening around the interviewee. A reporter that refuses, for any reason, to maintain good eye contact during an interview might be missing lots of non-verbal cues necessary for his report. This does not mean that one should stare or gaze at the other person to the point of causing an embarrassment.
  3. Note Taking: A reporter should listen attentively during an interview. If he does not know the formal shorthand writing, he can develop the abbreviated long handwriting, for his purpose. Only the important points should be taken down. Excessive scribbling/writing should be avoided, although it is better to be on that part of “too much”, than being on the part of “too little”.
  4. Verification: Before ending an interview, quoting statements, names, figures and dates should be cross- checked for accuracy. At the end, express your gratitude to the interviewee.

3.4 News Sources

The ‘where’ of news refers to the sources of information opened to the journalist. Primarily, a reporter begins his day with the house diary. The diary contains all the expected events of the day as perceived and recorded by the editor. The next source of data for the journalist is the

library, also called the “Morgue”. Here, the reporter has access to newspaper clippings, journals, periodicals, concordance, magazines and other confidential publications of the government. In any case, it is essential to make a list of news categories and their vital sources of information for writing each story.

3.4.1 Government News

  1. Government gazettes, daily press releases, etc.
  2. Ministry of Information
  3. Secretary to the State Government’s Office
  4.  Public Relations/Information Managers of Ministries
  5. Head of Public Service and Director Generals
  6. All Ministries (Federal/State)
  7.  Statistics and Planning Offices
  8. Mass Media Organs
  9. Legislature (State and National)

3.4.2 Business and Labour News

  1. Business and Labour Organisation, e.g. NLC and other Union Secretariats
  2. Business Institution (private and public)
  3.  Finance Houses e.g. Banks, Insurance companies
  4. Ministries of Trade, Commerce and Industries
  5. Mass Media Organs
  6.  Stock Exchange Officers

3.4.3 Sport News

  1.  National Sport Commission
  2. Sport Organisations e.g. NFA
  3. Sport Festivals
  4. Sport Magazines, Journals and Programmes
  5. Sports Ministry
  6. Sport Personalities (Old and New), etc.

3.4.4 Court and Police News

  1. Court Proceedings, Tribunals
  2.  Police Stations and Military Offices
  3. Ministry of Justice
  4.  Judges and Lawyers
  5. Secret Investigation Bureau e.g. FIIB, SSS, CID
  6. Media Reports
  7. Special commissions e.g. EFCC.

3.4.5 Accident and Natural Disaster News

  1. Place of Accident – Disaster/Relief Commission
  2.  Hospital Police – Airways, Transporters
  3. Ministry of Health – Embassies
  4. Fire Service – International Health
  5. Universities and Research Centre – Servitors

4.6 Foreign News

  1.  Ministry of External Affairs
  2. Embassies and High Commission
  3.  Nigerian Institute of International Affairs
  4. International Organisations, UNESCO, ILO, WHO
  5. Foreign Media Outlets
  6. Ministry of Information
  7. National, Regional and International News Agencies e.g. NAN (News Agency of Nigeria), PANA (Pan African News Agency), Reuters, UPI (United Press International), AFP (Agence France Presse) TASS (Telegratnoise Agenstvo Sovietskano Soyusa), etc.


Interviewing is an art that allows the reporter to bring into play all the writing skills at his disposal, especially of personality interview. The study of the techniques is essential in having a good interview.


The unit has exposed you to the following facts:

  1. That interviewing about the major source by which journalist get information for their daily reports or assignments
  2. The major types of interview include: the exclusive, panel, Vox pop and personality interviews.
  3. The best interviews are those which the techniques of interviewing are applied effectively. Common among such techniques are preparation, prepared and stated questions, use of mechanical device, eye contact, promptness and taking down notes.


Choose from (1) the types of interview (2) any of the news sources, you
have studied in this unit, conduct an interview or interviews of that sort and submit your report.


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