A Different Take on Interviewing Sources

Early in my training as a journalist, I got the idea that I should approach interviews as openly as possible. Especially those on topics that confused or intimidated me. (A recent post on The Last Word on Nothing captures this Science Writing 101 quite well) Only when I could explain the ideas backwards and forwards did I begin writing. I felt like my job was to translate concepts so thoroughly that someone new to them could still follow.

I realized during my very first interview for TCTMD that writing for physicians is an entirely different beast.

My interviewee was an extremely nice doctor not much older than me, chosen no doubt because he is such a nice guy. Without any hesitation, I began by mentioning, “Now I’m new to this, so…” And he stopped right there, laughing, “Never show fear. Seriously.”

He was right. Number one, the leading cardiologists are pretty confident people and don’t want to feel like they’re wasting their time on someone who isn’t equipped to listen. Number two, the only way to get them to answer at a level that would interest their colleagues is to pretend to be at that level.

So how did I pretend? In the short run, Wikipedia. More on the long run later.

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