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Interview a pro


In this flexible lesson appropriate for print or broadcast staffs or beginning journalists, students will connect with a professional journalist, do basic research, conduct an interview and write an article or Q-and-A or produce a video or audio story. Interviews may focus on career exploration or on an aspect of journalism. Students will submit a script with soundbites annotated or a transcription of notes providing background information and a quote sheet with questions preceding each quote. Following a peer- and adviser-edit of the quote sheet or script, students will complete the print, audio or video story.


  • Students will locate a professional journalist using basic Internet searching skills and set up a one-on-one interview by phone, Skype or similar technology or in person.
  • Students will perform background research on the journalist prior to the interview.
  • Students will create a list of in-depth, open-ended questions to prepare for the interview.
  • Students will conduct a thorough interview with their source, including a follow-up session if needed.
  • Students will use interview notes and create a quote sheet, audio script or video script using proper grammar and mechanics.
  • Students will compose a story about on their source using AP Style.

Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


One 50-minute class for initial assignment, with portions of three other class periods as needed (teacher option)
*Note: This lesson spans four weeks.


Note for teachers about this lesson:
This is a flexible lesson. The goal of the interview with a journalism professional can be career exploration, profile or topical. Discussion and preparation will differ based on the end assignment and the experience level of the students. Beginners may be most comfortable writing a personality profile similar to the student example provided. Students who have not yet mastered a basic news story might do better producing a Q-and-A. Broadcast students can work in teams to create an audio podcast or video story. More advanced students may be asked to go into more depth on a journalism topic or to learn more about a journalism skill such as interviewing or feature writing. Instructions and discussion should be steered toward the specific assignment.

This lesson ends with publication. As the audience for this content is not the same as the general audience of student media products, publication may be accomplished in any way that seems appropriate for your classroom: Shared on a Google Drive, presented in class, printed and compiled into a binder for future reference, uploaded to a private website, shared on a social media platform for use by other journalism students, etc.

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

1. Introduction — 15 minutes
Introduce students to the lesson by first asking students this question: If you were to interview a journalist in preparation for a personality profile or to learn about his career, what questions would you ask? Allow students a few minutes to formulate questions, encouraging each student to share one question. List the questions for all students to see. Categorize questions as open-ended versus closed-ended, and general versus specific.

OPTION FOR ADVANCED OR HONORS STUDENTS: If you were to interview journalist in preparation for a “how-to” story on interviewing techniques or some other topic related to journalism, what questions would you ask? Allow students a few minutes to formulate questions: List the questions and potential topics so all students can see. Topics may include trends in journalism, news judgment or other topic of current interest — the student’s or adviser’s choice.

2. Discussion — 10 minutes
After compiling the lists, have students discuss the questions presented. Look for questions that help develop a slant for writing a career-focused, profile story. Broadcast students may be teamed to go to a professional workplace for video, or invite professionals to visit your class to speak to beginners for this assignment. To avoid having too many students requesting interviews of the same professionals in smaller markets, consider regional, state and national sources.

OPTION FOR ADVANCED OR HONORS STUDENTS: After compiling the lists, have students discuss the questions and topics. Look for questions that help develop a “how-to” slant that explores the specific techniques this reporter uses in his/her craft. Or ask students to develop questions related to current topics in journalism. Teachers may require students to reach out to state, national or international journalists for broader perspective.

3. Slideshow — 15 minutes
To help students prepare for the assignment, walk through “Interview a pro” slideshow, which provides a step-by-step guide to this assignment. Emphasize that the assignment is broken down into the following parts: finding a source, arranging the interview, conducting background research, preparing questions, conducting the interview, transcribing quotes, and writing the article or editing the broadcast story or podcast.

4. Assessment
Allow students to spend the remaining class time researching potential interview subjects and compiling their list of three potential sources. You may require an exit card listing the steps of the assignment or listing the three potential sources. The list of sources including specific contact information can be assigned as homework.

Day 2 (one week later)

1. Check in — 10-15 minutes
Check in with students to be sure they found a source, arranged the interview, conducted background research and prepared interview questions. Guide or redirect as needed.

OPTION FOR BEGINNERS: Show the model student profile and reinforce what information is needed to complete an article like this. Or go over the basic format of a Q-and-A and check to be sure students understand the assignment.

2. Homework
Students must complete the interview within the next week. Students will turn in transcribed notes or audio/video script with quotes.

Day 3 (two weeks after initial assignment)

1. Discussion — 15 minutes
Collect students’ quote sheet or script with quotes from the interview. Ask students to share what they learned about their source and how they conducted their research and interviews.

2. Peer editing check
In pairs, ask students to use “Interview a pro rubric” to evaluate each other’s quote sheets or scripts and provide any needed comments before students write the article. It may be necessary for the student to do a follow-up interview. The script or quote sheet should include background information on the source.

2. Homework
Students should complete “Interview reflection” handout in class or as homework. The completed article or broadcast story is due within one week, or sooner at teacher discretion.

Day 4

Students turn in the completed stories for publication in whatever form you have decided is appropriate.


Use “Interview a pro rubric” to evaluate the finished work.


This is a flexible assignment, appropriate for any level of student. Options for beginners and advanced students are provided. ESL students may be encouraged to interview a journalist in their native language.