Northland, New Zealand

How to turn an interview into a news story

by Michael Botur, writer of interviews, blogs, content writing, journalism and web pages in Whangarei and Northland.

I completed this long-ish news story in April, based on an interview with Karl Armstrong, one of the highest-ranked executives in the NZ insurance industry.

Getting the story done meant going back to some skills I hadn’t used in a while. In 2014, I made a living writing hard news (newspaper journalism); in 2016-2017, I made a living writing soft news (public relations). With hard news, the journalist is expected never to share the words with the interviewee,  to try maintain complete objective independence. The discipline of PR/communications, on the other hand, involves ensuring everyone you’re writing about and writing for has been fully-briefed and has seen the story.

Writing the CoverNote story for Headline Publishing was sort of a middle ground. If you’re wanting me to ask me to complete an interview-based story for you, and would like to know what it takes behind the scenes, here are the steps I had to go through for this one.

  1. Read all recent news reports about the interview subject
  2. Read all recent news reports about the interviewee’s industry
  3. Talk to the interviewee and his PR/communications manager to let them know what angle I’m approaching the story with (the ‘angle’ of the story means the argument/thrust/bent/presumptions)
  4. Complete the interview.
  5. Create a narrative story structure, and put the quotes from the interview into the best positions in the story which meet the angle of the story
  6. Then a tricky part arises: getting the story shored-up enough that it will have 100% journalist accuracy, without taking the shortcut of sharing the story with the interviewee (this is that middle ground I was talking about!).
  7. Voila – story published. Everyone happy.

 

 

 

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