Whatever the nature of the interview, you are there to listen and to remain objective throughout.
Prompt and guide with a basic chronological line of questioning and remember the who, what, when, where and how interviewing rules but don’t interrupt when your interviewee is telling you their story.
Once you have checked and established the facts, you can then ask how they feel about a particular aspect of something they have revealed.
It’s fine to go off on a tangent but only if it’s relevant to the interview theme so ensure that you remain in control of the chronology and pace of the questions and responses. This can be quite difficult if your interviewee is a skilful orator and keen to get a particular point across but if you don’t retain control, your story content will suffer.
Ask one rather than several questions at a time. And to avoid yes/no responses, ask your interviewee how they felt about something or a great question to keep things flowing is what happened next?
If you don’t understand a particular procedure or detail, however basic it seems, ask your interviewee to explain. You’re not an expert in their field and it’s important to find out rather than leave it out.
By all means, accept the offer of a sticky bun and cup of tea while you’re interviewing but remember the no alcohol rule. This also applies to your interviewee and ensures they can’t complain after the event that didn’t remember what they said.
Putting words into your interviewee’s mouth should and can be avoided if you have established mutual trust. A top line about a family calling for an independent inquiry makes a strong story but only if it is something they’ve considered and are fully aware of the consequences of this.
You risk your journalistic integrity and that of your media outlet if you manipulate quotes at this level but if you explain why an inquiry or getting an MP involved in their story would strengthen their case, then it’s their call rather than yours.
You will instinctively know whether the interview has been content productive but there’s no harm in asking your interviewee if there’s anything they feel you haven’t asked about or covered as you’re leaving.
And if you’ve done your job proficiently, they’ll be far more inclined to contact you, rather than another journalist, with ongoing story developments.