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Lesson | 50 Minutes



Pre-interviews help you find the right voices (characters) for your story. In the Find Your Story Lesson, you identified potential people to interview and feature in your story. Now you will talk to them to get a sense of whether they are indeed the right people and if they will move your story forward. The pre-interview will also help you create a list of interview questions so that you can make the best use of your time, and theirs. Click on the Activities Tab to complete the lesson.

Central Questions

  • What makes a pre-interview successful?
  • Why do journalists conduct pre-interviews?
  • How can you prepare for an interview to ensure you get the soundbites you need for your story?

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn how to contact potential interview subjects
  • Learn how to write and ask good questions to get the information you need
  • Understand the importance of research and preparation
  • Practice listening
  • Learn how to use empathy and curiosity to guide a conversation -- critical communication skills for journalism and for life

When Would You Use This Lesson?

  • This lesson should be used as part of your student journalism project.
  • This lesson can be taught before The Art of the Interview lesson and before students record their final interviews.

Media Literacy Connection

Interviews are central to most stories you see in the news. By understanding the pre-interview, students will have a much deeper understanding of the process, challenges, and decisions made by reporters and editors. These are all critical parts of media literacy and understanding the different elements of journalism that result in video, audio, or text stories that you find online.

Civics Connection

Additionally, students who go outside their school walls and conduct interviews with local leaders, experts, etc. are engaging with their community in powerful and meaningful ways. Interviews help students follow their curiosity, go beyond textbooks and google, and give them a tool to explore topics in real-world situations.


A short extract or clip from a recorded interview, chosen for its relevance to the story, pungency or appropriateness.


A conversation with someone who is relevant to your story. Typically done over the phone or through video conferencing, but they can be done in person, too.

Follow-up Question

A question that comes after an interview subject responds to an initial question asked by the interviewer. A good follow-up question derives from listening to what the interviewee is saying and determining how best to help them elaborate and share more information.


After someone reviews your work, it is good practice to receive feedback, or an evaluation of your work based on certain standards. Feedback from multiple perspectives is an important part of the process. Masterpieces are rarely created in isolation.

Writing - Research to Build and Present Knowledge

Participation and Deliberation

Civics teaches the principles—such as adherence to the social contract, consent of the governed, limited government, legitimate authority, federalism, and separation of powers—that are meant to guide official institutions such as legislatures, courts, and government agencies. (NCSS D2.Civ.7.9-12 - D2.Civ.10.9-12)


Historical understanding requires recognizing this multiplicity of points of view in the past, which makes it important to seek out a range of sources on any historical question rather than simply use those that are easiest to find. It also requires recognizing that perspectives change over time, so that historical understanding requires developing a sense of empathy with people in the past whose perspectives might be very different from those of today. (NCSS D2.His.4.9-12 - D2.His.8.9-12)

Speaking and Listening - Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

Language - Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

Knowledge Constructor

Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. (ISTE)

Determining Helpful Sources

Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources. (NCSS D1.5.9-12)

Creative Communicator

Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. (ISTE)

Gathering and Evaluating Sources

Whether students are constructing opinions, explanation, or arguments, they will gather information from a variety of sources and evaluate the relevance of that information. (NCSS D3.1.9-12 - D3.2.9-12)

Reading - Integration of Knowledge and Ideas



Video Production

Broadcast News












Estimated Time

50 Minutes