News training: Smart or casual?

Unless you are working undercover on a pre-approved basis with your editor, you will want to introduce yourself to your interview subject and explain exactly who you are and who you represent.

The first few seconds are all-important. Your subject will decide how comfortable they will be in speaking with you based on how you appear. Are you a suit-wearing ‘authority figure’ out to intimidate them? On the other hand, are you so scruffy you bring a message of disrespect?

Deciding how to dress is an important aspect of preparing for interviews. You want to make your interviewee talk freely about the subjects under discussion but you also want to be confident and comfortable.

The best advice is to adapt what you are wearing according to the job you are covering. The starting point is to show respect. Wearing a flashy suit and tie to go and interview a destitute person is not appropriate. They may very reasonably see you as flaunting your relative wealth. On the other hand, it would be very appropriate to dress up if you are interviewing a politician or business leader. They will expect a certain dress code in their network of contacts and you will want to be seen to be part of that.

As a general rule, be clean and tidy, observe cultural norms and if in doubt ask a more experienced colleague. Wardrobe disasters should be left to your interviewees, not to you.

This post is part of a series reflecting themes from our online practical training course for working journalists.  The course was launched recently with a video announcement by Lord Black, CPU Media Trust Chairman.

Next time, we’ll discuss how to phrase the best questions.

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– SCOTT SINCLAIR – Deep South Media