Interviews, Speeches and Meetings Within the Framework of The New York Times

By Imman Merdanovic

Just having a good central point is often not enough to produce an outstanding news story. Facts, opinions and controversial points are what  what sparks a reader’s curiosity and what makes a story interesting. To write an engaging, credible story, journalist ought to interview individuals for which they believe are their best available sources.

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An interview can simply be defined as a meeting or an encounter of some sort for the purpose of obtaining additional information. According to Bender et al., many experienced interviewers think of an interview as a conversation. However, the point of this conversation is to collect information for an imaginary audience (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306).

Interviewing is considered an essential tool of the journalists and can be done in person, over the phone or via e-mail. According to Bender et al., while it may seem that conducting interviews is an easy task, successful interviews do not just happened and are a product of a lot of planning (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306).

The key in conducting a successful interview is preparation. Before identifying the sources, a journalist should identify the purpose for the interview (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306). Journalists also need to decide whether they are covering a news story, a feature story or an investigative story in order to be able to create an interview outline (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306). The journalists can then proceed onto collecting any necessary information: facts, dates, names, chronology showing the unfolding of events, context and perspective, opinions and anecdotes, among others (Bender et al., 2012, p. 306).

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In addition, journalists also have a choice to cover speeches and meetings, which may or may not include interviews. Reporters assigned to cover speeches and meeting usually write either an advance story or a follow story. The advance story sets the ground for an event which will occur soon, while the follow story reports on an event primarily for those who were unable to attend (Bender et al., 2012, p. 378).

To see how the reporters of The New York Times utilize interviews and cover speeches and meeting, I have analyzed three articles which the newspaper published on March 6, 2016. First, I look into the context of each story and the purpose with which the reporter interviewed his or her sources. I look into what information the reporters looked for at a particular interview. I also look at how many people the reporters interviewed and why.  Lastly, I look into the coverage of speeches and/or meetings. 

The featured articles are:

In her article on boar invasion in Italy, Pianigiani reports on the pressing issue of boar invasion in Italian wine yards. Thus, the context of the story is based on a rather dramatic series of events that pose a threat to numerous wine producers in Tuscany, Italy.

The purpose of interviews was to  get more information on boar invasion and to get first-hand insights of the wine producers whose business is under a threat. For example, Pianigiani managed to get some valuable statistical data from quite a few influential individuals in their respective circles:

“We now live enclosed,” said Francesco Ricasoli, the owner of the Barone Ricasoli estate, which includes about 2,000 acres of oak and chestnut woods where the boar and deer live and hide, as well as more than 500 acres of vineyards, where they love to forage” (Pianigiani, G.).

Moreover, to provide more information and thus improve the credibility of her story, Pianigiani interviewed  Bettino Ricasoli, twice the prime minister of Italy and creator of the modern Chianti wine recipe in the 19th century:

“Our vineyards are rather protected,” Mr. Ricasoli explained, “but our fields are prey to wild boars and roe deer recurrent incursions and have holes that look like Ho Chi Minh trails” (Pianigiani, G.).

Furthermore, Pianigiani also interviewed the councilor for agriculture, another influential source: “This law is at least a first step,” said Marco Remaschi, the Tuscany region’s councilor for agriculture, who acknowledged that the proliferation of the species here had been “largely undervalued and not governed” (Pianigiani, G.).

To wrap up the story and ensure a balanced perspective for the readers, Pianigiani interviewed the hunters and the technical director whose words added quite a bit of melancholy to the story: “We had and are having enormous damage because of this uncontrolled phenomenon,” said Roberto Da Frassini, the technical director who joined the Tenuta di Nozzole estate in northern Chianti in 2011. “We don’t live off philosophy,” he added. “Tuscany’s landscape is beautiful because it’s human-shaped. I can’t preserve it if I don’t pay the salaries” (Pianigiani, G.).

Therefore, the information Pianigiani looked for is how the boar invasion is affecting the wine producers and how much of an issue it really is. In other words, the story is really trying to raise awareness of this rather unusual issue.

Lastly,  the number of sources that Pianigiani interviewed for this story is seven. This is seemingly a short story, thus the number of interviewees is more than sufficient. The reason for this particular number is to provide a balanced, well-researched perspective on the issue.

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Ted Cruz spoke Friday at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in National Harbor, Md. Photo Credit, Stephen Crowley via The New York Times

Moreover, Flegenheimer and Habermann’s story is a follow story on an event concerning presidential elections. The event itself was a debate, thus the story offers opinions of those who spoke during the event itself. The story can also be viewed as an advance story, since it introduces another similar event and provides a rather valuable speech coverage.

The reporters start the story by briefly outlining the event that they are covering and its outcomes: “Mr. Trump’s losses to Mr. Cruz in Kansas and Maine on Saturday, coupled with closer-than-expected victories in Louisiana and Kentucky, have heightened the prospects for a two-man race, though many Republican leaders eye Mr. Cruz warily” (Flegenheimer and Habermann).

The reporters then quote various individuals who stated their opinions during the event: “Trump has to worry about the consistent late-voter rejection of his candidacy,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican presidential candidate (Flegenheimer and Habermann). “Some hope with Ted, no hope with Donald,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on “Meet the Press,” summarizing the party’s dim view of its remaining options.

Lastly, the reporters unofficially introduce another similar event in Michigan: “A moment of reckoning for Mr. Rubio will come Tuesday in Michigan, a state that has concentrations of the kinds of voters he performs well with: professional, younger, highly educated and upper-income”(Flegenheimer and Habermann).

Therefore, the context of this story is to inform the readers of the going-ons regarding presidential elections, and it appeals particularly to those who oppose Donald Trump. The reporters did not interview any of their sources, instead they quoted what the politicians said during the event itself. The information the reporters looked for in these quotes were opinions of Donald Trump and his campaign as well as alternative approaches for the election.

Finally, Coscarelli’s article on the music of Cuba is a classical example of a feature story, with a coherent interview of the musicians. The reporter interviewed the musicians who brought their brand of music to Cuba: “I know you’ve been waiting a long time for a party like this,” the D.J. and producer Diplo called out to a sea of pulsating young Cubans here on Sunday evening, during a free concert by his Caribbean-influenced electronic group, Major Lazer (Coscarelli, J.).

“The money D.J.s make is obnoxious and it’s not going to be around forever,” Diplo said in his room at Hotel Nacional, overlooking the growing crowd about an hour before he took the stage (Coscarelli, J.).

The context of this story is based on an emerging genre of music in Cuba, which relates to artists, residents, visitors and just about anyone who cares about music and Cuba. The purpose of interviewing the sources was to get first-hands insights on the emergence of new music in Cuba. The information that the reporter looked for from the interviews was more details on the music itself and the purpose for bringing the music Cuba.

In conclusion, two out of the three stories analyzed include interviews of some sort and only one is a follow story. While one story includes seven interviews, another story includes only two interview, thus showing that the number of sources is in direct correlation with the breadth and depth of an event/issue being covered. The more pressing, unresearched, controversial and dramatic the issue, the more likely it is to have a larger number of sources. As for event coverage, the reporters preserved most of the original quotes, thus allowing the readers to come to their own conclusion without giving away any bias. 

Work cited:

Coscarelli , J. “Diplo and Major Lazer Bring Their Brand of Music to Cuba.” March 7, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/arts/music/diplo-and-major-lazer-bring-their-brand-of-music-to-cuba.html

Fedler, F., Bender, J. R., Davenport, L., & Drager, M. W. (2012). Reporting for the Media. Oxford University Press, USA.

Flegenheimer, M., and Habermann, M. “Money Pours In as Move to Stop Donald Trump Expands.” March 6, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/us/politics/donald-trump.html?ref=politics

Photo Credits, Crowley, S. “Ted Cruz spoke Friday at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in National Harbor, Md.” via The New York Times

Pianigian, G. “Italy’s Famed Wine Region a War Zone, Invaded by Boars and Others.” March 7, 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/world/europe/italy-tuscany-chianti-wine.html?ref=world