Friday, April 20, 2012

What I learned: Bill Landauer on letting sources talk

We've all heard that interviewing tip: In conversation, human beings are uncomfortable with silence and often will say something to break the silence. Here's how that played out for Bill Landauer, who worked with Teresa Boeckel and Sean Adkins on Are we ready, which won first place in investigative reporting (Division II) at the Keystone Press Awards.
During the Are We Ready project, I learned from Teresa Boeckel the importance of letting someone talk in an interview. I've never been sure if it's just instinct or if she's aware she's doing it, but when Teresa asks questions afterward she just stops talking and stares at the subject for a few moments, even at the end of a conversation. People like me are quick to want to insert language into an uncomfortable silence, but as we interviewed our local emergency team, Teresa stopped talking, and eventually someone would restate something they'd said, but in a more clarifying or telling way.
What other interviewing tips to you have? (And check out all entries in the "What I learned" series.)