As writers and aspiring journalists, interviewing is a critical skill for us to master. Luckily for us, it is the fun part! It is our opportunity to step out from behind our computer screens, show our faces, and use our voices. This is when people person skills come in to play and overall creativity is tested. We aim to be writers but more importantly, communicators. I recently discovered that although interviews are exciting and entertaining, they are harder than might be expected. Here are a few helpful hints and important reminders to refer to when composing an interview.
Break the monotony.
Chances are, the person you are interviewing has been through the routine a few times before. For example, if it is a famous actor you’re interviewing, keep in mind that they are often asked questions such as “Who are you dating these days?” or “How does it feel to be an idol for millions of people around the world?” You get what I mean. Many journalists refer to the most obvious questions that come to mind, but better journalists will be aware of this and ask notable, one of a kind questions. This can be a hard feat to accomplish because you want to stay relevant and keep it interesting, but it can be done. Always put yourself in your interviewee’s shoes, what would they be intrigued to answer? More importantly, what would readers be interested to know?
Do your homework.
We all hear this advice when we ourselves are anticipating an interview for a job or whatnot, but this is also an important point to keep in mind when about to play the role of interviewer. A strong interview will begin with sturdy base knowledge your interviewee’s history, career, family life, and anything available on the worldwide web. Sticking to the actor example, this would include all movies they have participated in including the screenwriter, director and fellow cast mates involved. All this does is create a wider range of information for you to work with. This will make it much easier for you to unveil deeper answers from the actor that can’t be Googled or IMBD’ed.
Don’t be shy.
Unfortunately, a good interview isn’t solely dependent on the composer; the participant too decides its success. If your interviewee is having a bad day or just happens to answer all of your thoughtfully put together questions in five words or less, that can kill a good mood very quickly. So, be persistent. Be prepared with backup questions if they answer all of yours with yes or no. Now, this scenario shouldn’t occur often because most people being interviewed will be aware that journalism is your career or aspiration and therefore they’ll know equitable participation is highly depended on. If you interview a sour apple though, don’t stop until you get enough. Have questions ready that absolutely require them to regurgitate at least a sentence. If you leave an interview unsatisfied, chances are your readers will sense that as well.
If you approach all of your interviews with fresh questions, solid knowledge of your participant, and determination to get results then I feel confident you are on the road to interviewing success! I hope these tips will be helpful to my fellow aspiring journalists.
On Uloop News, one of our most successful traffic drivers has been Reddit. This social network is significantly different than the more well-known networks like Facebook or Twitter, but for writers who use it well, Reddit can drive thousands of pageviews, and our most popular writers have learned to use it well. Here is a quick guide for using Reddit:
Step 1: Set up an account
Obviously, in order to use Reddit, you need an account. Creating one is easy, just click here or use the link on Reddit’s homepage.
Step 2: Start following some relevant sub-Reddits
In the top right of Reddit’s home page, you’ll see a search bar. Search for topics that you commonly write about, for example, search for “college” and you will see /r/college as one of the top results. You should also look for individual sub-Reddits related to your college. For example, there is one for Ohio State, the University of Tennessee and most other colleges in the country.
Step 3: Post relevant content in the appropriate sub-Reddits
Once you’ve seen how sub-Reddits work, and you’ve followed a few interesting ones, you should try posting a link to one of your articles in the appropriate sub-Reddit. Over in the right side-bar, you’ll see a button called “Submit a Link.” Now all you have to do is to write a tite, attach the link, and submit it.
Note about Titles in Reddit:
Good titles in Reddit are what separates the unnoticed from the top posts. Titles should be descriptive, creative, conversational, and interesting enough to click on. Your titles can even be a sentence or two long, so one strategy is to ask a question in the title that relates to the article. Often times, this will start a conversation under the post, so be sure to check back in a couple hours and respond to comments when they come in.
Step 4: Get involved in the community
Reddit is more than just a place to share links. In fact, it’s likely that you won’t get noticed much on Reddit until you’ve taken the time to get actively involved in the community on the site. Read others’ articles, leave comments, upvote things, and try to notice what kind of content works best for the site. Reddit can be a lot of fun, no matter what you’re interests are, and anyone who’s interested in online journalism should have a familiarity with the site.
As a T.A. for a college English class, I have graded a lot of papers. I have graded wonderful papers that moved me to tears. I have also graded papers that made stomach curdle and reminded me of moldy cottage cheese — fuzzy, lumpy, and rotten with linguistic bacteria.
One of the most common mistakes I see are sentences that are written out of order.
Sally makes money.
Sally buys a yacht.
Sally makes money through her excellent business skills.
Sally makes money.
She makes money through her excellent business skills.
This allows her to buy a yacht.
The second example is much more linear. Each sentence builds into the next, culminating into a clear and logical conclusion. There is no jumping back and forth between ideas. We finished talking about Sally’s money. Do not bring it up again. She is too busy on her yacht.
Obviously, most college papers will be a little more sophisticated than this. But the message remains clear: when you finish a topic, move on.
How to Add Impact to Your Writing - The Easy Way
The easiest way to add power and impact to your writing is shifting from microchasm to macrochasm. This means writing about something small first and the larger context second - not the other way around. Too often I see this:
100,000 cows get slaughtered in the United States every ten minutes.
I have a cow named Bessie with beautiful eyes and a spot on her back.
Clear? Yes. Sad? Yes. Memorable? No. Try this instead:
I have a cow named Bessie with beautiful eyes and a spot on her back.
100,000 Bessies are slaughtered in the United States every ten minutes.
Oh, the horror! But why is this way so much sadder? Because this is not just happening to any cow. This is happening to Bessie. It is far easier for a reader to connect to a specific example than it is to connect to data and statistics. Also, data and statistics are harder to visualize. By introducing a smaller, more palpable example first, the reader then has a chance to develop a personal connection - which can then be applied to statistics and larger societal concepts (i.e. factory farming).
Topics are Important
And finally, the worst kind of writing is boring writing. Trust me: if you were bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it. If there is absolutely nothing you enjoy about the topic, focus on sentence structure. Write the most brilliant, beautiful, well-organized sentences your reader has ever seen. With this mindset, I can almost guarantee you that your grammar will blossom beautifully.
By Shawn Binder
Freelancing means that you will need to be able to bounce from publication to publication and be able to bring your readership with you. We live in a world where print is becoming a less viable source of reaching an audience. In order to combat this, writers have taken to the web. It may seem difficult to carve a place for yourself in the writing world when internet users have so many options of authors right before them. I myself am still attempting to carve a place for myself on the web. I want the world to know when I am writing something. I want my voice to be unique, distinct, and entertaining.
I try my damndest to market myself in order to gain a readership. This is the main key to all successful writers! Building a readership is one of the most daunting tasks a writer may ever face. Sure, you may have incredibly thought provoking things to say, but without a readership, whose thoughts are you provoking? Social networking allows us to market ourselves in a way that makes us, and our work, assessable to readers.
Know your audience and market to them- If you want your readership to be old women in their 50’s, you would cater your articles to be about Dancing with the Stars, or knitting or whatever else interests them. The point being, you need to be aware of who you are and who may be interested in what you have to say. I, being a college student, like to write list editorials because I know that most college-aged students enjoy reading humorous list.
Cast your net wide. Use all facets of social networking to gain readers. I have a tumblr, twitter, instagram, and Facebook and I use all of them to link my articles to. It’s important to use all forms of social networking because you’ll have different “fans” on different sites. The other day I wrote a sassy tweet about Ann Coulter and my sane followers rejoiced. “Yes, she IS crazy!” they all said and that’s when I knew that I had a group of readers for my future list of “5 Insane People We Should lock away.”
Show your personality. Let your freak flag fly, be riot boys and girls, MAKE THAT PERSONALITY SHINE. As silly as it sounds, readers will want to know why they should be reading your work as opposed to someone else who comes off as more interesting. I tell my social networking peeps almost every day how much I love hummus. It’s something they know about me. It gives off the façade that I sit around all day writing articles and eating hummus when I’m really just on my couch in my underwear, eating chips. Let people know who you are and create a persona for yourself. They’ll feel like they know you and everyone enjoy reading the work of someone they know.
Be slight aggressive and annoying (but not too much). The biggest thing about drawing in readers is to actually do the mule work. You’re going to have to link your articles to everything repeatedly. Mass email family members asking them to click your articles don’t hurt, either. People love you and they’ll share your articles as well.
Marketing yourself will seem like the vainest task you’ve ever taken part in. Don’t stress it and don’t feel guilty. It’s exactly how you build a readership!
Read more of Shawn Binder’s work on Uloop News.
“In school, especially in my business practices class, everyone talked about how to make money as a photographer,” Mark Mahaney says. “Outside of school, I learned sometimes the best way to make eventual money is by not making money on some jobs, but using the imagery those jobs yielded to get more and more work.”
“I made a conscious decision when I set out working on my own that I took on work if I thought it’d be good for the evolution of my career. I don’t focus on money,” Mahaney says. “I focus on doing the best work I can do, regardless of the budget…. You obviously have to be reasonable and can’t only take on nonpaying jobs, but too many people let their egos get in the way and refuse doing work for free. Some of my favorite portfolio pieces are from jobs where I either got paid nothing or even worse, had to shell out money of my own to pay for some of the expenses. Getting work in a magazine is an advertisement for you and your work every single time. Sometimes some of the most beautiful layouts and tearsheets come from the independent and more artful publications that have no money to pay you.”"