Think about the last story you wrote.
Did you get a bunch of high-fives?
Did you hear things like, “Wow – thanks! That was such a great story!”
Or did you hear absolutely nothing?
If so, that can be telling. Perhaps the problem lies in how you interview your sources.
1. Do you settle for your source’s first answer? Remember: The good stuff always lies beneath the surface. So keep probing. Challenge your source with “devil’s advocate” questions. The first answer is rarely your source’s best answer.
2. Are you getting canned quotes or “corporate speak”? Don’t stand for it! Instead, dig in. Try picking out one word from that stilted response and ask, “What did you mean by that?” Ask for evidence; can your source prove it? Or, ask your sources to share a story that illustrates the point they’re trying to make. Avoid writing quotes from corporate folks that you’ve read elsewhere a million times before (you know what I mean – things like, “We provide high-quality products and the best customer service.”) Ask more questions so you can write something different.
3. Are you ever short on examples or struggling with weak ones? You’ll be surprised what you get if you ask, “Can you give me another reason why this is the case?” or “How else have you used this technology in the field?” And then you can ask a couple times more: “What’s another reason this happens?” This prompts your sources to think harder about what you are asking and respond with more reasons or examples, giving you more meat on the bones. (more…)