DIY: How To Do a Q&A
A good Q&A isn’t quite the same as the kind of conversation you’d have with a friend. You’re looking to identify tensions, scenes, moments, and examples. You want emotion, humor, authenticity and candid responses. You want to call out BS or fake news while remaining professional. And you want to ask your subject questions no other interviewer has asked them before.
If you’re stuck on the basics, like how to come up with interview questions, check out our intro to interviewing tips here. In this style guide, we’ll be focusing more on how to turn your awesome interview into a written/print Q&A for YR Media’s website.
What makes a good Q&A post?
- A strong written intro – You get to set the tone for your Q&A in the written post, so make it clear why it matters. Give the reader context, background, newsy peg, or personal interest as it relates to the Q&A.
- Talking to the right person – It should be obvious to the reader why you’re talking to this person. Are they an expert? Someone who can provide a window into a particular world or experience?
- Getting answers beyond Google – If the reader could have used a search engine to find the responses to the questions you’re asking, you’re not going deep enough. Go for emotion, experience, senses, or scenarios.
- A strong back and forth between the interviewer/interviewee – If you end up joking or pressing the person you’re interviewing, that is part of the story. If the person you’re interviewing says something funny/outrageous/weird, respond to it. And possibly keep that in your final edit.
- Brevity – It’s better to leave the reader wanting more than to bombard them with too much writing. Keep Q&As to 700 words or less.
How to Turn an Interview into a Written Q&A
- Write a 1-2 graf intro
- Provide a visual (photo of the source and/or related media)
- Make sure your interview is accurately transcribed (YR may be able to help with a transcription service — ask your editor)
- Edit down the total length of your Q&A to 700 words or less
- Make it clear who is “talking” in Q&A portion (especially important if you interviewed more than one person at once)
- Fact-check and hyperlink to reputable sources for information provided in the Q&A
Examples of past YR Q&As
- Could A Game Based On Columbine Promote Anti-Violence?
- Black Girls Travel Too
- With “13 Reasons Why Not,” High Schoolers Honor Friends Who Saved Them
- Worried About ICE Raids? Here’s How Teens Can Help Their Families Prepare
Super Important Rules for Q&As
- Never give the interviewee your questions ahead of time. If they ask, alert your editor ASAP. You may be able to give them the basic idea for the topics you’ll cover, but not the specific questions.
- Record the audio for your entire interview — even if it’s over the phone. This makes sure your quotes are accurate.
- The interviewee must understand you are a journalist reporting for YR Media. Make sure to record this so there is a record of you identifying yourself.
- The interviewee must understand you are recording them. Have them verbally acknowledge this while you record. Do not record without their knowledge.
- If the interviewee asks to approve the Q&A before it is published, tell them NO — but that you will be in touch about fact-checking.
- Fact-check the Q&A before it is published — don’t read back entire quotes to your interviewee, but do check that basic facts, numbers, and concepts are correct if you have any uncertainty. Even experts occasionally misspeak in interviews.
- Take a photo (landscape-orientation, high res) when you do your Q&A. If it’s over the phone, ask your source to provide you with one for publication with the post on YR.media. If any other digital assets come up on your interview (photos, videos, text messages) ask if you can get a copy to put in the written post.
- Once the Q&A is published, send the interviewee the link to the piece. If they want to suggest edits or dispute facts, alert your editor ASAP (even before replying to the source).