By Ellen Beck

Follow these best practices to get the most out your interviews.

  • Always identify yourself and explain what you are doing.
  • If you are interviewing a person for a news story, ask questions that gather the information that you need to explain an idea, event, or situation.
  • If you are interviewing a person to write a profile of that person, make sure you get a resume, and read everything you can about that person before interviewing him/her. You need to find, usually before your interview, a peg, a special focus on that person, like “communication” or education or his/her perspectives on Gallaudet.
  • Prepare written questions. Try to decide on an angle for the interview — what are the main characteristics or responses you want to cover? Do you want to cover his/her whole life? It’s usually better to focus on one or two aspects of that person’s life.
  • While you are interviewing, do not ask judgmental/biased questions. Do not show your opinion in your question. (“Do you think it’s wrong for deaf children to be forced to get cochlear implants?” vs. “What do you think of cochlear implants for deaf children?”)

Note Taking

This is the most challenging part for an interviewer. How can you get every word, especially if you are deaf? The problem for deaf interviewers is the variety of communication styles prevalent in the deaf community. Also, a deaf reporter often has to interpret from either American Sign Language (ASL) to English or English to ASL and a variety of communication in between these two languages.

For example, if you use ASL, and your interviewee uses signed English, then what do you do?

Or, if you use ASL, and your interviewee doesn’t know ASL or any kind of signs, then what do you do?

Or, if you use signed English, and the interviewee uses ASL that you can’t understand, what you do?

There are no easy answers, but you, as the interviewer, have the responsibility to accurately quote your subject.

You have to find ways to do this by either using an interpreter, asking the person to write and you write back and forth, perhaps by videotaping. Perhaps with a hearing person, you can use a microphone, although this isn’t always reliable if you can’t find someone to interpret it, or if you can’t check to see if the microphone is working.

Some deaf reporters use laptop computers and some use TTYs. Some deaf reporters write down every word, some develop a kind of shorthand. If they are not sure, they should always ask the subject to repeat until they get it right. This takes time, but accuracy is essential.

If the person being interviewed asks to see what you wrote, show him/her. If you have a question on your interpretation of what the person said, either show him/her the quote or read the quote back.

It is very good practice to read back what you expect to quote especially if it is sensitive or controversial information. However, you don’t have to read to the subject the whole article, just the quotes to be sure they are accurate.

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