Interview Purpose and Techniques

What interview techniques are there and how do they work?

  • Direct interviews- overt interviews

This is the form of interview that is consensual where the interviewee has agreed to be interviewed and is prepared for and aware of the kind of questions he/she will answer. This is usually on the terms that they wish to promote something through the interview which is often set up by their manager or team, but will be conducted in a way where it seems that the interview seems like a natural flowing conversation rather than a script. An example of a situation where this may take place is on a chat show.


Overt interview example

  • Covert interviews/ footage

These interviews are the ones where the interviewee is unaware that he/she is being interviewed, usually through being secretly filmed and asked questions causally without the interviewee knowing the actual reason they’re being posed. Often set in a secret studio with camera’s placed around the room. An example of where this kind of interview would take place is chat shows also, often for the purpose of humour.


Covert interview example


  • Ambush interviews

These are the kind of interviews that take place on news channels – where a figure, often a politician or celebrity – is bombarded by interviewers and paparazzi for answers. This is usually conducted in a rude and brash manner often causing the interviewee to either walk away or only answer a few questions shortly.

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Ambush interview example

  • Talking Heads

This is a form of interview that often takes place in a documentary. There will be a short clip of the interview in between clips that are often longer featuring the action side of the documentary. The interview explains and goes in depth about the previous and next clips, but it is brief so that the documentary does not become boring. This is done to create diversity in the programme and provide narrative.

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Talking heads example in a documentary

  • Vox Pops

Vox pops in latin literally means ‘voice of the people’ – which is why this form of interview is called this. This type is when members of the public are interviewed and often asked a particular question in order to see if the public support or are against a certain view. It shows regard for the public opinion and gives an insight into what the public think instead of an expert. These are often used in news reports or in a documentary.

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Vox Pops example

  • Email/ phone interviews- voice over/ text only- audio/visual limitations.

These are the types of interview which are often used in entertainment shows, news channels, chat shows, and more. They add diversity to a programme. This technique is where the interview is done through a form of media instead of face to face, through email, text, phone call, voice over, or a radio interview. The interviewer will ask particular questions the interviewee answers or the interviewee will provide their opinion on something.


Live phone interview example

What different types of media products feature interviews?

The majority of media products feature interviews – they’re featured in media products such as chat/talk shows, entertainment shows, comedies, news channels, documentaries, live streams, and radio shows.


How does the media format and context affect the type of interview used?

The media format affects the type of interview as different types of interview are suited to different styles of programme. They can be hard or soft interviews, and can be one of three types depending on the context: the hard exposure interview, the informational interview, and the emotional interview.

A media format such as a news broadcast, print news brief, or perhaps a documentary would suit a hard interview which means that the questions are direct and to the point, with little or no room to elaborate without necessity. The aim is to gain a certain answer to a specific question(s) without unnecessary detail. A hard question would begin with something such as ‘where will such and such take place?’  They would use this because they need a specific answer for their media format and would only be focusing on important facts.

A media format such as a chat show, an entertainment show, or live stream would use a soft interview. A soft interview is personal and more in depth than a hard interview. It might be used to interview a figure such as a celebrity, and is more inquisitive to their thoughts and opinions. For example, in a soft interview, an interviewer might begin a question with something such as, ‘what are your personal thoughts on..?’

A media format such as a news broadcast, interviewing a figure such as a politician would use a type of interview known as the hard exposure interview.  This is essentially the same as a hard interview – it interviews the subject on what they say alone.

A media format such as a chat show or news broadcast would be suited to an informational interview. They aren’t restricted to the bigger, major stories and are inquisitive to other smaller stories and events, about things that are happening and could happen in the future. They can involve the audience, and are often tailored to figures such as celebrities and are usually questions such as ‘when will you release…?’, ‘what are your plans for..?’ etc.

A media format such as a chat show might use an emotional interview. As the name suggests, this type of interview is personal and and moving, the purpose of which is to shed light on the figure’s feelings. This kind of interview asks deep questions about things such as a figure’s background and struggles, which allows the audience to connect with the figure. This type of interview is more suited to a media format such as a chat show because these programmes are longer and more personal than say a news broadcast.


What is the purpose of interviews?

The purpose of an interview is to inform the audience on different subject matters. They can inform different things through different ways. For example, one interview may aim to educate and give standard facts on a matter, but another might aim to be more entertaining to the audience than educational. These are both purposes for an interview. Another purpose could be to persuade the audience on a matter for example on a charity, and for this persuasion could be conducted through an interview where a specific figure might use themselves as a spokesperson for their cause. Using a real person that the audience can see/hear can provoke bias and favour their cause as the audience may feel emotional connection or bias with the figure. Interviews can also be purposeful for promoting events or products through real people, and it allows the figure to have their own voice.


What can affect audience responses to interviews?

The response to an interview from an audience can vary. Depending on how they are conducted and the style used a type of programme, the response can be positive or negative. If a style of interview is used badly on a programme such as a talking heads in an comedy show the response might be negative as it could make the show less entertaining, or if an ambush interview was used for a documentary the response may be negative as it is intrusive on the person being ambushed. A positive response could be gained by using the right style of interview in the right place for the right format. It may also be affected by how it is conducted – if the interviewer is out of line or makes a lot of mistakes the response may be negative. For instance, Fox News is notorious for being biased an speaking over the interviewee. This kind of conduct often causes upset which is why news channels such as Fox are disliked. However, if the interviewer conducts themselves well, respects the interviewee and has done their research they are likely to gain a positive audience response.


How do you form appropriate questions and what types are there?

Depending on what the interview is about and the information it aims to provide, different question types can be used appropriately to gain different answers from the interviewee. There are both open and closed questions, and questions that are based on who, what, where, why and how.

Closed questions are questions that can be answered with a short yes or no answer and don’t require a long response. These can be formed appropriately so that it can create a  segway through to other questions and are also useful if the interviewer wants a short and simple answer rather than an extended response.

Open questions are questions that call for a longer and more in depth response. They ask more questions based on opinion or for a substantial amount of facts. These are formed appropriately in an interview if the interviewer aims to get more thought and information out of the interviewee rather than simple answers that the audience might already have.

There are open question types such as who, what, where, when, why and how which ask for more than a yes or no answer as they have to provide moe in depth facts/opinions. Who questions ask for a name and often an explaination, so these can be formed appropriately if the interviewer wants to get another person in the picture, or, for example, wants to know who else is involved in something such as a movie or decision.

What questions ask for a description of something, such as an event, fact or opinion, or decision. These are broader questions, and can be formed appropriately so that the interviewer can gain a more general and extemded answer for the audience. For example, these questions may start like: What is your opinion on..?

Where questions provide a location for the audience and can be formed appropriately to construct an idea of where an event is taking or took place. These are useful for questions asking about events such as concerts, crimes, or meet up locations.

When pins down the timing of an event, and can refer to both the past and the future. They are appropriate for placing a date and time on something that will or has happpened, so the audience can either have a bearing on when something will happen or when it happened. An example of a when question would be useful is asking about a movie release date.

Why questions ask for either an intepretation or an explaination, often for an action or opinion. These can be formed appropriately in interviews to gain an in depth answer and a reason why something happened/will happen. These questions provide answeers for the audience so they can understand a reasoning and form an opinion, and are often used to sway an audience to agree with the interviewee. An example of where these questions are appropriate is a politics interview.

How questions ask for an opinion or interpretation, and are appropriate for gaining knowledge of how something happened/will happen or how the interviewee feels about a situation. They are useful for questions asking about subjects such as how a campaign started or how an interviewee may feel about politics.


What issues must be considered when interviewing? E.g Legal and ethical issues

One issue that must be considered when interviewing is the fairness of how the interview is conducted. If an interview(er) is biased and unwilling to understand the interviewee’s view point, it becomes an issue ethically. An example of a programme that is very biased is Fox News, who are very biased about the republican party and do not show support for the democratic party in the USA government. Another issue is libel and defamation, which is when a person’s reputation and public image is disstorted falsely. An interview which strongly presents an interviewee in a negative light without legitimate reason is a both ethical and can be legal issue – if a company is called out on this action they can be severely discredited and can be taken to court. They may also have to pay a large sum of money and publicly apologise, so it is wise to make sure facts are legitimate when conducting an interview to ensure this does not happen. An example of this issue was with J.K Rowling when the Daily Mail slandered her over single motherhood.

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