Tips on Interviewing

By Doug Drew 

One issue I really haven’t talked much about in this column is interviewing. However, it’s a great subject, and I got some great advice from a reader the other day, so I thought I would pass it along.

These tips came in from David Busse of KABC, and I think he has some great recommendations on interviewing from a photographers perspective:

Interview tips
Do “behind the desk” interviews as a very, very, very LAST resort. If you must, do them to the side, or move the person to a chair in front of the desk. Desks give people something to hide behind. This is an adage I learned from a veteran 60 Minutes shooter years ago and is one of that show’s cardinal rules. Side-of-the-desk SOT’s, framed wide, work well when you’re interviewing people with messy desks and small offices. If the desk is a mess, NEVER let them “clean up.” Messy desks tend to be a sign of an interesting person.


If your interviewee is going to appear in your story several times, change the look of the interview. Try shooting it at different angles or in different locales, with proper setup for each place, and never be afraid to ask the same questions. That’s also a trick to make stagnant stories “move.” Wane Freedman of KGO is the master of this technique.

Use two-shots and reverse shots as an absolute last resort in editing.

Work with your photographer to understand that interviews should be like portraits. Composition, framing, etc., should tell us a great deal about this person before he/she even opens his/her mouth.

Threaten to shoot photographers who do interviews in front of brick walls.

Understand the “golden moment.” Never be afraid of “dead air” in a taped interview. If an interviewee says something and pauses, don’t jump in and try to fill seemingly dead air. This is the “golden moment” (as taught by former CBS News correspondent Dave Dugan). Simply stare at the person, in silence, and put the pressure in him/her to fill the “dead air.” 80-90 percent of the time, your best sound bite will follow.

In an interview, agree with your photographer to never stop rolling when the interviewee thinks the interview is over. In 35 years of shooting TV news, I’ve done many bad interviews with marginal sound bites gleaned, when the reporter says “ok I think we’ve got it…” and the interviewee says “well, I hope I was able to convey what I really feel about this…” and suddenly, a gem of a :15 sound bite occurs.

David Busse

Thanks David, and I think the part about not being afraid of dead air is a great one. If you have any positive advice you’d like to pass on, feel free to email me

Doug Drew is a morning news specialist with 602 Communications. He can be reached at Follow Doug on facebook and on twitter at