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Print interviews are perhaps the hardest interviews to prepare for and certainly the hardest to control. In this article you’ll be reading a bit of context of the industry as well as a few tips on how to survive a print interview.

Broadcast journalism compared to print is “clean”. We set up an issue, one side speaks, you speak for your side, the length given to each point of view is relatively equal. And although BBC guidelines change regularly the basic position from which journalists operate is “fair dealing”.

But for print things are different...

The Print Context

Newspapers are no longer “news” papers.

With 24 hour news on radio, TV, websites and social media sites the news has become new information that no-one has had before.

To stay alive in this 24 hour information world newspapers, local and national have become a different kind of beast. They have reacted by becoming campaigning organs. Save our Hospital, For Europe, Against Europe, Against Electricity Price Rises - you name it newspapers from the Rutland Times to the New York Times have started campaigning.

Alongside features and reviews and magazines and TV listings and the like the real position of the print version of a newspaper is the quality of its features, the status of its columnists…and the campaigns it runs.

And campaigns are usually the individual against the corporate, the weak against the mighty, the amateur against the profit maker.

And as such print journalists approach interviews with a pre-disposed position. The Save our Hospital brigade get the headline, the premise of the story and the journalist will lay their case out first. There are three problems with this:

  1. People don’t read to the end of a 1000 word article. You probably won’t read to the end of this one. And the corporate position always comes towards the end.
  2. Print interviews last a long time. If I’m recording a radio or TV interview for broadcast news they’ll be around five minutes long from which I’ll use maybe 10 or 15 seconds of you speaking probably without editing you. A telephone print interview will be anything up to half an hour, with subsequent questions put later once your points have been relayed back to the opposing voice.
  3. From all of that information gathered they will choose two, three or four sentences from the entirety of what was said lumped together into one or two quotes. You basically have little or no editorial control.

So, how to approach a print interview?

The Print Interview Tips

Print Interview tip 1: Do your homework

Before you decide on your strategy remember: you have rights. For example, you have a right to know:

  • Who else the journalist is speaking to
  • Are you being asked to respond to the concerns of a critic
  • Who are they
  • What did they say
  • When is the article up for publication

So, when you have this information only then can you decide your Strategy.

Print Interview tip 2: What do I want to read myself saying?

Think about what it is you want to read yourself saying and reinforce that message in the interview. These two points can help to deliver the message:

  • Address the questions posed but tell the journalist precisely what it is you want them to convey to their audience
  • Remember that no-one will know more about your business than you do so don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know what you’re writing down at your end but I would be very disappointed if my main point of X was not included

Print Interview tip 3: Record

Remember, you can record interviews too. If you have had a bad experience where you believe you may have had what you say used in the least effective way, record the interview yourself. It may not stop the journalist taking irrelevant or ineffective points, but it will help should you have to complain or defend yourself to a boss or to shareholders.

Print Interview tip 4: Call time

When you think you’ve said what you wanted to say, politely call time on the interview. You might say “I think you’ve got everything I have to say. If that’s all, I’ve got to get back to the business”. The longer you stay on the line, the more chance you’ll say something irrelevant or ineffective. 

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