Before starting an interview, you should have a good idea of the type of interview you are about to do and its purpose.
The purpose of an interview is to gather usable audio to illustrate your story. This audio may be live or recorded. If it is recorded - which is more likely - the end result could be 15 seconds or several minutes. The cut itself could be used for a news bulletin, a package or a documentary. In spite of these varied uses, the principles of good interviewing are the same.
But before you start, you should have a good idea of the type of interview you are about to do and its purpose. You will probably be guided in this by the brief given to you by the news editor.
Remember the reason for getting audio through an interview is to have someone else like an expert, official or eyewitness say something that the newsreader cannot - comment.
This is primarily to reveal facts or opinions. For example, 'How many ambulances are off the road because of a maintenance problem?'; 'Which way do you as an MP intend to vote in tonight's crucial Commons vote?'; 'Why weren't the main roads in the county gritted before last night's frost?'
Note some of the words used. The crucial words to use when asking questions are: who, what, where, why, when and how. Questions starting with these words elicit answers other than just 'yes' or 'no', therefore making them much more useful on radio. They are known as 'open' questions.
'Closed' questions such as, 'Do you think the county's roads were sufficiently gritted last night?' can lead an interviewee simply to say 'yes'. The interview intended to reveal information is most likely to achieve its object if the questions are short and direct but 'open'.
There are exceptions. In some cases a direct 'closed' question can achieve a dramatic effect: 'So, after three deaths in as many years, are you going to resign?'
The interpretive interview is quite different. The subject of the interview needs to interpret some facts which are already known. The fact is that interest rates are rising again; the financial expert can be asked what effect this will have on mortgage rates.
You should still, though, ask questions using the word 'what'. In this case, you are no longer dealing with an existing situation; the expert is being asked to look into the future and sketch the probabilities, usually based on knowledge of what has happened in similar circumstances before.
The emotional interview is by far the most tricky type. Good reporting covers all shades and colours of human emotional experiences. There is the happiness of the sporting record breaker; the anxiety of a mother whose child is missing; the anger of a man who has been attacked and robbed.
In an emotional interview, a certain amount of silence is more telling than any words, as the subject pauses to gather his or her thoughts, perhaps in the midst of mental turmoil.
Journalists are sometimes criticised for exploiting the emotions of others who may be in trouble or despair. In reality, no one can be compelled to talk if they do not wish to, and it has been said that people suffering in some way can find relief in recounting their feelings.
After a big train or motorway crash, there is rarely a shortage of survivors who are anxious to tell their stories. It is often suggested by journalists that the act of describing a narrow escape seems to reduce the shock. However, that is not to condone the actions of a small minority of reporters - sometimes from newspapers - who undeniably overstep the bounds of decency in their efforts to get the big 'tear-jerker'. Journalists do not have the licence to cause extra misery to people who are already suffering enough.
This is adapted from Basic Radio Journalism (Focal Press), by Paul Chantler and Peter Stewart. It's posted on bbctraining.com with the kind permission of Focal Press.