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Student Press Review
The Art of the Interview
Neil Mehta, a Connecticut high school student and experienced interviewer shares his experiences with up-and-coming journalists
Editor's note: Originally published: March 22, 2004
"I want to know who your friends are, who your girlfriend is, who your enemies are...and I want their numbers too, if that's possible.
"I want to know everything about you," 18 year-old Neil Mehta grinned jokingly.
In a session titled "Mastering the Art of the Interview," Mehta spoke about fundamental interviewing skills. He presented his session on Wednesday, March 17, 2004, as part of CSPA's 80th anniversary Spring Convention.
"That's what you have to say," he said, emphasizing the importance of well-rounded research on the interviewee before the interview.
Mehta is a senior at Westhill High School in Stamford, Conn. He is a frequent contributer to the Stamford Advocate and the Greenwich Times, in addition to nine other publications across the United States. Mehta has conducted many interviews with prominent individuals, including journalist Walter Cronkite and Lou Gerstner, retired C.E.O. of I.B.M.
He shared his knowledge and experiences with 80 other high school students in a relaxed, yet informative, manner.
In his well-organized presentation, Mehta focused the class on three essential steps of the interview process. The first step is setting up the interview.
"This is a matter of persistence and networking," said Mehta.
He recalled the time it took to set up an interview with Walter Cronkite-almost a year.
"I had to get friendly with a lot of people. I remembered his secretary's birthday and bought her flowers. I called about two or three times a week," he said.
The second step is preparing for the interview. Putting time into researching and learning about an interview subject is essential. Researching an article's intended audience will also help as you write your article, Mehta explained.
"Another crucial thing is to approach your subject with an angle that he's not used to. Prepare questions that won't get cookie-cutter responses."
An interviewer's confident presentation of themselves to their subject is the third step.
"The key is subliminal reassurance," said Mehta. "Encourage your subject. Do everything to make your subject feel comfortable so that he'll talk to you."
"Your subject must be able to open up to you. Clothes, body posture, gestures, eye contact, the initial hand shake," he said.
Mehta assured his audience that mastering how you present yourself is important in gaining a subject's trust during an interview.
Mehta has been a speaker during six CSPA events. This coming fall, Mehta will join Columbia University's class of 2008.
Amelia Chan is a sophomore at The Chapin School in New York, N.Y. Chan is one of 14 New York City high school students selected to participate in the Spring 2004 semester of CSPA's Stringers Program, co-sponsored with Camp Broadway.
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