No Quittungssätze

A week of interview-training, mostly 3:30 live-interviews for radio or TV. One day of vox pops and focus, focus, focus. Some notes of what I took away from this week.


Have a clear goal in mind for each interview. Then develope your driving question and a (max) nine-letter headline that answers your question. This helps you to have focus during the interview and not loose track in your line of questioning.

  • Which type?
    • Information about the matter (with an expert)
    • Profile about the person
    • Opinion on a topic
  • Driving Question
  • Nine-Letter headline
    • Found this very helpful to define where I want to go with the interview, what is it supposed to bring?
    • Define narrow and sigular focus (do you have only one focus?!)


Preparation is key for a good interview. Talk to your interviewee in a pre-chat and be sure of a killer first question.

  • Pre-Chat

    • Define focus
    • Possibly tell about first question
    • Tell them to keep it short and simple, no jargon
    • Possibly get a voice message w/ their name pronounciation
    • How do they want to be introduced?
    • Why are they relevant for the topic?
    • How do they look/sound? (More headspace is better than too little)
  • First Question

    • Depends, may give too much away, can set the tone
    • Politician: Be provocative, then follow up
    • Expert: Don’t provoke them, they talk too long and you can’t be rude
    • Possibly just let them describe:
      • How big is this?
      • What are the parts of this?
      • Give us an example
    • Headline as first question: May be punchy but may take away the whole story; May allow them to stray too much
  • Structure

    • Micro-Macro-Micro-other Macro is super nice
    • Possibly establish context with first question: »How does it feel to be a black man in Brazil?«
    • Most important thing front and center (significance)
  • Moderation

    • Erklärmoderation, if a lot has to be explained
    • Try not to have wikipedia-moderation, narrate like in a bar
    • Keep moderation very close to the topic
    • Make clear why you’re talking to this guest
  • Abmoderation
    • Write it beforehand
    • If nothing else: »Does the central bank still have power to deal with inflation. I talked about this with ECB spokesperson XYZ«
    • Great, if you can summarize what was discussed
    • No additional information in the Abmoderation (may be cut out)
  • Helpers:
    • Write down list of possible interruptions: »Do you mean…«, »Why do you say that exactly?«, »To be clear…« (great one)
    • Write down what answers may be
    • If question isn’t answered, ask again

How to conduct

You can make sure to take care of these steps while conducting the interview. It makes it better.

  • Questions:
    • Never do bundled questions
    • Ask open questions but frame them with examples: »How are middle classes in turkey suffering from inflation, for exampe families in their housing situations?«
    • Pointed questions are great
  • Inserts
    • No Quittungssätze (»interessant«, »great«, »really«)
    • Floskeln vermeiden: »In the studio with me…«, »Ich würde dich gern fragen…« (Could be different in very personal interview)
    • Add context also with obvious stuff: »Why are protests impossible right now?«
    • Interrupt for clarifications
    • Long replies: Add signposts to take control and add orientation. »Do I understand correctly that…«, »You said this and this what about [next question]«
  • Don’t wobble with your body. Any nodding that you’d normally do is fine
  • Wear clothes with contrasts, not too dark, not too small patterns


Vox-pops were also part of this interview training. We went outside to find regular people in Bonn and ask them of their opinions. Making good vox-pops isn’t as easy as you’d think but having a good one adds emotion and relatability to your journalistic output. Vox-pops are never standalone journalistic publications but are rather embedded into a whole piece. The nice thing about having good voxes is, you can use them accross your publications. If they are filmed, you can use the audio and transcripts in other media-types.

  • Ask personal questions
    • How do you feel about…?
    • How does … affect you?
  • If you ask »what should be done about…«, people want to be correct and you get political answers
  • Keep asking the same questions but keep digging
  • Edit to have people who bring new perspectives
  • You want “characters”
  • Be aware: Voices may blend into each other; It’s a problem
  • You can use the same person several times if they’re great
  • Dramaturgie: Strong-Middle-Strong
  • Complex topic:
    • Repeat opinions to let them sink in
    • Be aware: Is everyone answering the same question? Otherwise you may have a lot of confusion.

My Interviews

I conducted these five interviews during the week with differing interview partners. Three with video, two only audio. I just love sitting in the radio studio and casually chatting with a person. Andreas suggested to have the cappuchino effect: Make it sound as if you just talk over a cup of coffee.

  1. What’s the way forward for Ghana’s national soccer team after they crashed out of the AFCON? (Eddy)
  2. How does Albania not dealing with its dictatorship affect people today? (Astrid)
  3. What’s the state of the Belarussian opposition? (Tanja)
  4. How do you make interdisciplinary art? (Jazz Violinist and circus/theater person)
  5. The ECB cannot change inflation right now. (ECB spokesperson)
This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.