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Conducting the multiple-story interview

“It’s amazing what new things you learn (and what new story ideas you can get) listening to a source the second time.”

— Sonya Senkowsky

By Sonya Senkowsky
Some freelancers have a knack for turning one interview into multiple publications. I highly recommend learning this. “Recycling” in this way maximizes your reporting time (and makes it possible to earn a living). But it’s different from a typical, one-subject interview.

Some tips, from my experience:

• DON’T promise or suggest to prospective subjects that you will write a story for X big-name publication until you actually have an assignment. Though it’s fair to say you know editors at certain publication (if you do), it can backfire if those editors take a pass.

• DO ask what school(s) the person went to as well as what publications they enjoy and trust (and which they do not). If they could be featured in any publication, what would it be? Does their school have a good alumni magazine? Is there a hometown magazine/paper that might be interested?

• During the interview, DO ask the same questions multiple times. Because some markets are sensitive about duplicating quotes, it is good to have several different versions, in your subject’s words, of what may be essentially the same information.

• DON’t neglect to ask your editors what publications they directly compete with. Many would balk at seeing your byline on a similar story in a competing publication.

• DO conduct a broad-ranging interview, all the while asking yourself: What else is interesting about this person? Who else might care?

• DO contact your subjects again as you get new story assignments and before those stories are edited.You may ask if there are any updates needed to the information they gave you originally.

• DO both record and write your notes. And create full transcripts of each interview. It’s amazing what new things you learn (and what new story ideas you can get) listening to a source the second time.

About the Author
Sonya Senkowsky is a freelance writer based in Anchorage and founder of AlaskaWriters Homestead. She offers a home on the Web to Alaska writers and coaching to writers of all kinds.

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