The High School Adventures of Luke Ford & Shannon Anderson

Shannon was my best friend at Placer High School (which I attended from September of 1982 until graduation in June 1984).

Anderson was a starting forward for the school’s basketball team.

I was the editor of my school’s newspaper, the Hillmen Messenger.

We made a home movie in April-May of 1984. We had to edit the footage in the video camera (and then added music from the radio).

I last talked to Shannon in 1992 (update 2009).

We read the news together for our school’s (Placer High and then Sierra Community College) cable access chanel 8. Video from circa 1983.

Covering Placer High basketball with Joe Hamelin. More More

I wasn’t such a great interviewer. I intruded too much with my own opinions. A good interviewer uses non-judgmental questions so the subject feels comfortable being honest. Once you start to pronounce judgments, your subject easily becomes defensive.

Here are some good tips on interviewing from Hamelin (when he was at the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, CA) posted on Poynter:

  • Always use a tape recorder. Explain to the subject, if need be, that no one will hear it but you.
  • Take notes, too. Tape recorders sometimes malfunction.
  • Do your homework. A subject will warm to you when realizing you’ve taken the trouble to be informed.
  • If you can, find someplace quiet where you won’t be interrupted and steer the subject there.
  • Save the tough questions for the latter part of the interview.
  • Try not to ask questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no."
  • Don’t be nervous. The athlete can’t hurt you. But you can hurt the athlete. He or she is the one who should be nervous, and probably is.
  • If you are totally out of your element, ask for help. Admit that you normally cover softball and have never written a piece on rowing. Almost always, the subject will be only too happy to help.
  • Try to have a "conversation" when possible, instead of just asking questions.
  • Unless you have an agenda, have three to four questions prepared to get things rolling. Then follow where the subject wants to take you.
  • If you are covering something unfamiliar with many possible interview subjects, pick the smartest, most experienced reporter in the room and follow him or her like a puppy dog. You’ll be led straight to the best interviews.
  • Dress appropriately.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Journalism, Personal. Bookmark the permalink.