More Than a Game: The Interview Process

This instalment of More Than a Game will look to provide an insight into the research and practicalities of carrying out interviews for a journalistic project like the Beautiful Science.

The key to any good work of journalism is the people who find themselves at the heart of the story. In the Beautiful Science this draws in a wide collection of the football community.

The first that springs to mind are the sports scientists, the fitness coaches and the analysts. However, consider who is effected by the decisions these people make. This approach brings in coaches, players and research academics. Now, remember that the first trio of fields require equipment, software and resources. Therefore manufacturers and developers also add a unique scope to the story.

Of course this all goes on in the backdrop of one key actor in any football and even sports story. The fans. The late, great Jock Stein, who died after suffering a heart attack at the end of his Scotland side’s 1-1 draw with Wales at Cardiff in 1985, is often quoted on the importance of fans and the point can not be made anymore succinctly: “Football without fans is nothing.” A lot has changed in the game in the 30 plus years since Stein’s passing, but the role fans play is just as crucial, if not more so, despite the celebrity life players now lead.

Covering every blade of grass

It was therefore vital that throughout the Beautiful Science that every aspect of the subject was explored through interviews with members of all the aforementioned groups. When researching and formulating interview targets it was key that the individuals were both leaders in their fields and able to talk in substance about the subject of the project, whilst at the same time balancing the goal of ambition and practicality.

The process of contacting hopeful interviewees is made easier by the social media age, but it does still require professionalism, punctuality and above all else the old adage of manners when attempting to ask very busy individuals to give up any free time they have to talk to you.

Throughout the project so far the overall result of such practice has been extremely positive with key voices from across the football world giving their time to respond to questions for the Beautiful Science.

Proof in preparation

After organising interviews and all the logistics of recording equipment, meeting place and/or time, the focus turns to getting ready to conduct a well structured and in-depth interview.

A combination of researching the interviewees background, considering what you want to find out from them and evaluating any areas that require sensitivity sets up for what should hopefully be a valuable interview.

A useful strategy is to consider time when coming up with questions, i.e. a selection of questions focused on the interviewees past work/history, some on their present role and current topics of debate, and lastly looking to the future and what that might bring.

This should offer more than enough responses from any interview to provide merit and this has proved successful throughout the Beautiful Science, as you will hopefully agree in the coming weeks.

Needle in a haystack

Thorough interviews do have one drawback on the surface. They leave a lot of audio/video to study to decide what is going to be used in articles. Nevertheless, after the rigours of finding, contacting, arranging, researching and completing the interview this last step is a rewarding one.

Listening back one, two or even three times can help find some fantastic quotes that may have passed through the net when carrying out the interview so it is essential that this is done in a focused manner.

Time well spent

On reflection it might seem that the task of interviewing is both time-consuming and frustrating. This is true to an extent, but the more time put in will inevitably bring its rewards.

It must be remembered at all times that interviews make up the heart and soul of any story. Without them works of journalism lack credibility, balance and insightfulness.

Interviewing is a skill. Like any skill it can only improve with experience and after several years of journalistic study the interviews for the Beautiful Science have definitely benefitted from this practice. As the project progresses you will get the opportunity to judge for yourself.

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