Interviews are an important resource for nearly all sports reporters.
This article offers additional comments directed at sports reporting.
As a sports announcer, you'll generally interview players, coaches, managers, trainers, and owners. Your interviews will usually take place at a sports event or at a news conference. Pregame and postgame interviews are common to all sports. As you prepare for interviews, keep some of these questions in mind.
• What is the overriding significance of the game to be played or just concluded?
• Is there an interesting one-on-one player matchup?
• Is there something unique in the playing ability or game strategy of the person you interview?
• Has an athlete been on a hot or cold streak?
• Is there an unusually important or interesting game coming up?
• Is there any information about trades or free agents that might be newsworthy?
Interviews with athletes can sometimes be frustrating. The code of the locker room seems to demand that athletes—other than wrestlers, boxers, and some professional tennis players—be modest about their own accomplishments and praise their teammates or opponents, regardless of the facts. Moreover, athletes are preoccupied before a game and exhausted afterward. Finally, the noise and confusion in dugouts and locker rooms and on the playing field can make sensible, coherent conversation difficult.
When interviewing sports stars, keep the following points in mind:
Assume That Your Audience Is Interested In and Capable of Understanding Complex, Precise Discussions About Training and Technique. Avoid asking superficial, predictable questions. Your audience probably already knows a lot about the sport and the athlete and wants to find out more. Followers of tennis, golf, and Olympic performances such as gymnastics, diving, and equestrian events are less tolerant of superficial interviews than are most other sports fans. They've come to expect precise analytical comments, and they feel cheated if interviews with participants don't add to their understanding of complexities and strategies. Basketball and football have developed increasingly complex offenses and defenses, and fans have been educated to understand and appreciate detailed information about them. Baseball, one of the most subtly complex of all major sports, is seldom explained or discussed in an enlightened fashion through interviews, but you should not be discouraged from reaching for answers to complex questions.
Work up to Controversial or Critical Questions with Care. If you ask a big question without any preliminaries, you're likely to get a routine statement "for the record" from athletes and coaches. Sports figures are interviewed so often that most of them can supply the questions as well as the answers. They tend to rely on safe explanations for most common questions. If you want more, lead up to big questions with a sequence of less controversial ones. If you begin an interview with a football coach by asking whether the coach approves of a trade recently made by the club's owners, the coach is naturally going to say "yes" and avoid elaborating. Begin instead by talking about the team and its strengths and weaknesses. Move to a question about the playing abilities of the traded player. Ask specific questions about the player's strong and weak points. Finally, ask the coach to explain how the loss of this player will affect the team. A coach will seldom criticize the decisions of the club's owners, but you'll have a better chance of getting more than a vague response if you don't ask the big question straight out. Give your guest a chance to comment informatively as well as loyally.
A warning: don't use a roundabout approach to the big question if your intent is (or appears to be) entrapment. It could be more difficult to obtain cooperation in the future.
Get to Know the Athletes You Are Likely to Be Interviewing. Knowing the athletes you interview will help you to assess the kinds of questions they can and can't handle. Many sportscasters and some reporters travel with teams, visit locker rooms, and are invited to opening-day parties, victory celebrations, and promotional luncheons. If you have such opportunities, use them to become acquainted with the athletes who attend.
Listen to Conversations Among Athletes and Coaches. A good way to discover what athletes and coaches think is timely and important is simply to listen to their conversations. Though time pressures sometimes require you to enter into these conversations to come up with a story or anecdote for your program, you can often learn more by listening. If you're lucky enough to have meals with athletes and be accepted in clubhouses or locker rooms, try to be a silent observer. You'll be amazed at the spontaneous insights that will emerge.
Again, a warning: don't use your familiarity of friendships with sports figures to warp your judgment or betray a trust. In other words, don't make excuses for the poor play of an athlete because you have a warm relationship and don't report things said to you or overheard by you that should remain confidential.