Sports Reporting Advice: 6 Tips for Nailing the Post-Game Interview

By Sara LaMachiaCMM correspondent

In an afternoon session on day one of the 2014 ACP/CMA National College Media Convention, Philadelphia Inquirer sports writer Joe Juliano offered advice to student journalists on making their questions count during post-game interviews.

As his session description teased, “The game has just ended. Coaches are running to their locker rooms. Players are headed to their buses. Deadline is looming. Who should you interview? What should you ask?”

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Below is a brief sampling of the advice he shared.

1The post-game interview is not about you or what you thought of the game. According to Juliano, it is extremely important to be concise when asking questions. Do not begin with commentary. And, most importantly, stick to the subject at hand.

Be pleasant and engaging. Although you are in the presence of big-name players and coaches, in Juliano’s words, “don’t be giddy to be liked.” He said he often sees young sports writers so excited to report and be part of the action they come across as over-eager or overly obsequious. His advice: Tone it down.

Start by actually asking a question. Many times reporters will simply toss out statements like “Your performance in the third period…” and expect the player or coach to complete the thought and answer as if they had been asked something. From Juliano’s perspective, statements like those are a sign that a reporter lacks interest in the sport they are covering. So show the player or coach you care and begin your question with one of the effective standbys how, why, who, what, when or where.

Listen to the answer. As Juliano told the audience during the session, sometimes a player’s or coach’s answer to an initial question can trigger the best follow-up questions — even better than separate ones you had already prepared. So focus on listening, really listening, to what an athlete or manager has to say and form a folo question in the moment based on his or her answer.

Develop an effective post-game note-taking strategy. Juliano said he will often review his notes after a post-game interview and have no idea what he wrote down because the words are scribbled gibberish-style all over his notebook. To steer clear of that messiness, focus on being concise and also consider recording the interview so you can listen in later and spark your memory about those scribbles in your notes.

Tweet, tweet, tweet and check Twitter often. From the perspective of Juliano, a 30-year veteran in the field, tweeting is one of the best ways for journalists to share information and an excellent tool to see what other people are talking about. For the sports writer, that might mean fan chatter — a bunch of tweets about a similar topic could be the seedlings for a related question worth asking after a big game. According to Juliano, in a larger sense, you should always be open to the possibility of fans having a major impact on sports stories. After all, as he noted, in the end, we’re working for readers.

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