NPR Investigations Correspondent Laura Sullivan is the subject of today’s Tricks of the Trade feature. And the timing couldn’t be more fitting. Credentials: On May 23, she’ll pick up a Peabody for a report called “Behind the Bail Bond System.” She also recently won an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award and a Dupont-Columbia Silver Bond award back in January.
1. Favorite Interview Technique: And then what happened?… what did you think of that?… and then what happened?… what did you think of that?.. and then what happened?
2. Most Compelling Question You’ve Ever Asked: See above. Conversely, worst non-question question I’ve ever asked: “Talk a little bit about…” I might as well have said, “Talk about whatever you feel like talking about in as boring a way as you feel like saying it, and don’t bother to actually address anything I’ve come here to talk to you about. But please, go ahead.”
3. Best Self-Editing Approach: With an axe, not a scalpel. Only 15 percent of a first draft is any good.
4. What to do When an Interview is Tanking: Cut and run. Find a better subject. If you really have to have the person/interview, I take off my head phones (put away the notepad for a while) so they relax and think the important part is over — and start over.
5. Approaching Lawmakers and other “Important People”: Groan. The approach isn’t the problem. (The interview’s either in their self-interest or not. Doesn’t matter what you say.) Getting them to give a compelling interview is.
6. Most Surprising Thing to Happen During an Interview…