Before You Sign | Interviews

06 November 2018 Before

Whether you’re the interviewer or interviewee, the information shared in an interview will be intended to form at least part of the basis of a published or broadcasted work – so it’s essential that everyone involved understands the terms on which it is taking place, and how the information will be used.

When you're being interviewed

Here are some points you might want to consider and clarify in advance:

  • If the interview will be on a specific area of your expertise, is it simply a cheap and easy way for the publication or broadcaster to get content without having to pay you to write an article? If so, will being interviewed work for you balancing the effort you’ll need to put in against the exposure you’ll gain?
  • Are you being paid? Magazines, newspapers and local TV and radio stations rarely pay for interviews – national broadcasters do in some circumstances. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask. See the SoA/PACT Best Practice Guidelines.
  • What rights are being sought? Will the interview be published in a single issue of a journal, or on certain social media platforms, or as part of a specific radio or TV broadcast? Will the interviewer be seeking rights to syndicate or re-use?
  • Will the interview be in person, by phone, by email?
  • If the interview is in person or is a radio phone-in, video recording or TV broadcast, where and when will it take place? If you must travel to a venue, will they send a car, or will you have to make your own way and will travel expenses be paid?
  • If it’s a broadcast interview, will it be live or pre-recorded?
  • For interviews that will appear in a publication or are pre-recorded, will you be given a chance to see and approve, or at least comment on, the finished product?
  • Will you/your latest work be credited?
  • Can the interviewer give you a guarantee that anything presented as a direct quote from you will be approved by you?
  • If you are being interviewed about your latest book or work, do not assume the interviewer has had the chance to do more than skim the blurb on the back cover. Think how to respond to the questions you are likely to be asked in a way that ensures that the points you hope to put across are addressed. Plug your book directly but remember that being too unsubtle can be counter-productive.
  • If you supply a photo of yourself to accompany the interview (e.g. for print publication) remember the default position is that copyright in that image belongs to the photographer, so unless it’s a selfie, you will need to seek permission. And do ensure that the photographer will be credited.
  • If you are supplying images that include identifiable people, remember that they may have a right to privacy. You should discuss with the interviewer who is taking responsibility for ensuring that the relevant permissions have been obtained.

When you're interviewing others

If you are interviewing someone else – whether for commissioned journalism, biographies, ghost-writing, or another purpose – you should clarify the terms at the outset. But you need to be mindful, also, that a formal contract or 'legalistic' wording can be daunting, depending on who you are interviewing. The essential terms may be better laid out in more conversational style in a letter.

  • When, where and how will the interview take place?
  • If you are interviewing a child or vulnerable adult, will they be accompanied by a responsible adult they trust? You should review the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) code of practice (points 6 and 7) on interviewing children.
  • What uses are you seeking? For instance, is the intention to include the material in a single, specific article in a specified journal, or in a book, or in any context that relates to a specific topic?
  • Will the interviewee have a chance to see and approve what you’ve written?
  • Will they be identified? Or will they need you to guarantee that they will not or cannot be identified?
  • Are there any areas or topics that they are not willing for you to address?
  • You’ll need to be able to assure them that their personal data will not be used in any way that they have not authorised – for instance, even if you have their email address, you will not give it to anyone else without their consent.
  • Will the interviewee receive any payment and / or a free copy of the publication in which their material appears?
  • You will want them to give as formal a warranty and indemnity as possible that any material supplied by them (spoken word, written / printed material and images) is true, as far as the interviewee knows not unlawful (e.g. defamatory, an invasion of privacy, in breach of any possible non-disclosure agreement or workplace confidentiality agreement).
  • If the interviewee is supplying any photos, see above the last two bullet points of the first section about copyright and privacy.

If the material could be sensitive, who takes responsibility for checking it? Generally, that would be you or, if the article/interview was commissioned, the commissioning publication.

SoA members are always welcome to consult us for bespoke advice.