Interview Prep Questions

This week’s discussion gives you a chance to practice preparing for an interview.

Imagine you’ve pitched a story to Modern Cat Magazine about people who have taken in feral cats. 

Inspired by a clever April 2020 spoof by Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Gay comparing the conflicting opinions cats and dogs have over lockdowns, you want to explore how covid has changed our relationship with the cats who live with us, but independently from us, spending most of their days outside, and out of sight.

In the course of researching your topic, you come across a story about Duchess, by Roy Peter Clark, a contributing writer with the Tampa Bay Times.

In his piece, Clark explores his fascination with Duchess’ vocalizations, a curiosity that led to research into how various languages label the sounds cats make.

Clark talks about how his family adopted Duchess nine years ago, and the daily routines that define their relationship. (The Duchess, as she’s also called, refuses to be picked up, but relishes pets and scratches.)

Imagine you’ve reached out to Clark about your piece, and he’s agreed to an interview. You want to talk with him as a long-time cat lover, the caretaker of a feral cat and an expert on language. (Clark has written many books on the craft of writing, and he’s a Senior Scholar at The Poynter Institute, where he’s taught since 1979.)

Given this premise, follow the six steps for planning an interview outlined in this week’s lesson (and presented below).

In your initial discussion post, include your full list of organized, edited questions, with your top five in bold formatting.

Do your homework. Learn what you can about your source based on public documents. If you’re talking with an expert, make sure you know their niche.
Brainstorm a list of questions you’d like answers to. Try to hit 30 questions.
Organize the list. Think about a natural flow to the conversation. Sequence the questions accordingly. Start with one or two icebreakers. Even then, don’t launch into tougher questions. Save those for deeper in the conversation, after the source has warmed up, and after you have some rapport going.
Check your balance of questions. Generally, in reporting, we talk about “open-ended” and “closed-ended” questions. Open-ended questions encourage substantive replies. Closed-ended questions can be answered in a few words, or with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Bold your top-five questions. Interviews often take on a life of their own. Sources will answer questions before you have a chance to ask them. They’ll linger on points you expected them to answer quickly and gloss over meaty items you’d hope for great detail on. It’s natural to lose some control of the process. What we don’t want to do is hand over the reins entirely. This is why it’s so important to identify, upfront, what your most important questions are. These are your guideposts. Whatever else happens in the interview, if you get your key questions answered, you’ll be in good shape.
Review your list once more. Ask yourself: What have I forgotten to ask? Add any questions that come to mind. Then, add a final, perennial question to your list: “Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to cover?”

You should use this article to get information about Clark and Dutchess:

I need 25-30 interview questions relating to covid and his relationship with his cat and about Clark's use of "language" with his cat. Mostly open ended, only close ended questions where necessary. 

Interview Prep Questions

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