One of the most important skills to master as a young journalist is the art of the interview, and students in Prof. Sissel McCarthy’s MEDPL 388 Studio News Production class were eager to hone their skills with tips from award-winning broadcast journalist Jane Hanson (pictured above) in early May.
Hanson has interviewed thousands of people, including presidents, celebrities, authors, sports figures and regular people during her 27-year career as an anchor and correspondent for NBC News and its New York affiliate, WNBC.
Hanson’s first tip: Listen. “There is nothing more crucial,” said Hanson, who won nine Emmy Awards for her work at NBC and is now running her own communications consultancy business.
She also advised students to be well prepared. This means doing your own research and thinking about how to make your interview different. “My goal is always to bring something new to the table,” Hanson said. She is in favor of pre-interviews but does not give out exact questions ahead of time. “That ruins the spontaneity.”
During the interview, Hanson told students to remember who the audience is. “You are the voice of the people you’re serving—they’re your boss,” Hanson said, adding that sometimes that means you’ll need to interrupt people who are evading your questions. “I say something like, ‘I’d love to move on, or I know what you’re saying, but we really need to address ‘x’ to get the interview back on track.”
Hanson also keeps her questions short and to the point and said her favorite question is: Why? “This is the question I get the best answer to,” said Hanson, who told students they’ll get better and better with practice. “Learning how to become a great interviewer is a process.”