Skip to main content
4 answers
5
Asked 1409 views

As a Journalist, how would you handle a hostile or uncooperative interviewee?

I am doing a career bog project and trying to get insight on how do Journalists handle hostile or uncooperative interviewees.
#journalism #journalist

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you

5

4 answers


1
Updated
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Steve’s Answer

The key is to try and develop rapport with that hostile or uncooperative interviewee. Try to get them to see your side and you are trying to help them air their beliefs or ideas about the topic. If you can get them to see your side, and the benefits of taking to you, then they might open up more.
1
1
Updated
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Brian P. D.’s Answer

I try to explain to hostile or uncooperative interview subjects that, as an objective journalist, I am not approaching the story from one "side" or another. I am attempting to record the actions and views of people who approach the event or topic differently in order to present a full record with all relevant perspectives. I tell them the simple fact I am approaching someone who is hostile or uncooperative should prove I am willing to publish their voice through my article. One of the simplest approaches is to tell them, "I just want to hear what you have to say so I can include your viewpoint in my story." Then listen and take down what they say without interruption or argument. Reporters (as opposed to columnists and editorial writers) are meant to be chroniclers of ongoing events and recent history. We are not hired to shape opinions and (in most cases) that is not our intent. Tell them that. If they continue to act in a hostile or uncooperative manner, just walk away or hang up. There is always someone else who is willing to talk.
1
0
Updated
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

John’s Answer

I will break it down as A.S.K.:

Awareness: Smile and use a friendly tone. Think hard about how to ask tough questions -- avoid red-letter, inflammatory words. You can say, "This is a tough question, I realize -- but I wanted to give you a chance to talk about it." Stay as polite as possible. Your goal isn't "gotcha" -- your goal is to get the person talking.

Stand ground: Be prepared for anger and insults from the person you're interviewing. It means you are doing your job. Don't raise your voice. Don't interrupt.

Keep asking: Listen closely. Be ready to follow-up by asking, "So does that mean?" If you don't get an answer to your question, don't re-phrase it. Just ask it again. Have these questions in mind: "How's that?" . . . "Really?" . . . "Please tell me more." . . . "What can you say about . . . ?"
0
0
Updated
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Nancy’s Answer

When interviewing hostile or uncooperative interviewees, one approach is to start and end the interview by thanking them. A simple "Thank for taking the time to speak with me today" can help.

Also, listen. Carefully. When people seem hostile or uncooperative, they sometimes say (or blurt out or yell) things that explain WHY they are hostile or uncooperative — and knowing why can give you some insight about how to proceed. The reason why may or may not be related to the story you're writing. Either way, don't get emotional about it. Keep your cool. Be professional. Be respectful. Speak in a direct and neutral tone.

To get the information you need from hostile or uncooperative interviewees (or really any interviewee), ask a mix of close-ended questions and open-ended questions. Close-ended questions can be answered with a short answer like "yes" or "no" or a name, date, or a couple of words. Close-ended questions are good for getting basic facts, and for getting the interview back on track if it has gone off the rails. Hostile interviewees might be willing to answer these because they are quick and easy to answer. These are questions like "How many people were there?" and "What time did this happen?" From there you can transition to open-ended questions which are broader and require longer answers. Open-ended questions are good for getting explanations and for giving interviewees opportunities to tell you more, or to tell you something you may not have thought to specifically ask. These are questions like "What happened?" and "What's your reaction?" and "What else?"

Also, instead of being turned off by the hostility, try working with it by calmly asking the interviewee: "What's the worst thing about this?" The answer might give you something to work with.

Lastly, if the hostile interviewee is giving you the silent treatment, make sure they know how to easily contact you if they decide to talk to you later. Don’t act like you’ve won and they’ve lost if they concede to talk to you later. Let them know you’d still like to hear what they have to say.
0