The B’s to Getting the Scoop

If you’re a writer, you’ve heard true stories that you’d like to share. Below is a list of interviewing tips Joyce K. Ellis shared at the Write to Publish Conference. Joyce is the Assistant Director of the WTP. Hopefully these tips will improve your ability to GET THE REAL SCOOP.


  1. Be professional.
  2. Be persistent.
  3. Be sensitive to closing doors. If you can’t get the interview it might be for a reason. Don’t push too hard. It could be that that person is struggling with something that will come out in the media later and you’ll understand then.
  4. Be honest. Tell them, “I’m a freelancer.” Don’t tell them you have a place to publish their story if you don’t. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure if I can find a home for this story, but I’m going to try.”
  5. Be respectful.
  6. Be prepared.
  7. Be on time.
  8. Be confident. Not in yourself, but in the God who is your strength.
  9. Take deep breaths, enjoy, relax.
  10. Be observant. Look around for the details in their lives they may not share. Some little detail in their lives may interest others, but they may not think it’s a big deal.
  11. Be a good listener. Don’t tie yourself to your notes. The conversation may go down a different path. Don’t interrupt. Let the interviewee take the lead.
  12. Be alert to probe deeper. Sometimes silence gets them to talk more than anything. Lift your eyebrow. Nod. Wait. Most people don’t like silence and they’ll fill the void and maybe give you the dirt you would not have normally receive.
  13. Be sure to LEAVE THE TAPE RECORDER ON UNTIL YOU’RE OUT THE DOOR. Joyce said some of her most “off the cuff” stuff was something they said AFTER they thought the interview was over–as they were walking her out the door.

Questions NOT TO ASK: ¬†Ones with yes or no answers. Stories drive the article. Don’t ask, “How old were you when you decided you wanted to become a surgeon?” Instead, ask, “Can you describe what it was like the day you decided to be a doctor?”

And use the FIve W’s — WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW.

Do you know where the story usually lies? In the WHY! Ask it.

What question recently revealed something amazing you didn’t know about someone?

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  1. Robin says:

    That is awesome advice. I’ve always been told that you need to know 80% of how an interviewee will respond to your questions. But it also makes sense that you need to think of an interview like a conversation and let it go where it leads.

    Thanks for the great advice!

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