Asking Interview Questions That Make Your Mama Blush

The National College Media Convention introduced “short and sweet” sessions. According to the Indiana University Teaching Handbook, students’ attention span is around 15 to 20 minutes long. Based on this fact, a block of 20-minute sessions was offered for students to attend.

Dan Close, a Wichita State University professor, held a short session called “Asking Interview Questions That Make Your Mama Blush.” This session offered quick tips for getting over the “dark I ask syndrome” during interviews. He encouraged students to get over themselves and push the boundaries to get information.

The session consisted of a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation full of Close’s concise and to the point tips for journalism students facing challenges at their university newspaper or in their future journalism careers.

Close was able to summarize his key advice in succinct sentences on each slide.

Quit asking permission.

Talk to little people.

Play ping-pong with sources.

Be rude to get a rise.

Don’t be afraid to argue.

Push their buttons.

Shame is a powerful weapon.

There is nothing wrong with being an antagonistic troublemaker.

Learn to read upside down.

Watch their eyes. (Ask them why they’re lying.)

Once in awhile, don’t save the hard question for the end.

Close’s experimental delivery of tips grabbed all of the students’ attention from the start. He suggested that the group let the information sink in and think about what he was advising with each tip without taking notes. To make sure the students did not miss any of his rapid-fire exchange of edgy advice, he offered to email a copy to every person in the session.

Student journalists need to develop courage and creativity in interviews in order to get what they need from sources. Close encouraged journalists to push the limits during interviews to get the vital information. He advised that journalists imagine success before each interview similar to the way athletes imagine success before a game. He motivated the group to do whatever it takes to get the public the information they need to know.

Overall, I am grateful I attended Close’s session. I plan to apply what he taught while conducting future interviews.