Look at the mans answers and write the reporters questions
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7 Tricky Questions Reporters Ask and How to Answer Them
Interviewing Principles. Reporters conduct two kinds of interviews:. A news peg often is used to justify the profile. For effective interviews, reporters prepare carefully, and they ask questions that induce the source to talk freely. Questions are directed at obtaining information on a theme that the reporter has in mind before beginning the interview. If a more important theme emerges, the reporter develops it. The reporter notes what is said, how it is said and what is not said. Sources are encouraged by the reporter's gestures and facial expressions to keep talking.
In the stadium locker room, the half-dressed hurdler was stuffing his warm-up suit and track shoes into a battered black bag. Seated on a bench nearby, a young man removed a pencil and a notepad from a jacket pocket. Mind if I ask you some questions? The athlete nodded and continued his packing. Another nod. This was not going to be easy, the reporter worried.
The editor had told him to make sure he brought back a good story for tomorrow's paper, the day the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics would begin its outdoor track meet at the local college. The tall, lithe young man standing in front of the bench was a world record holder in the hurdles, the editor had said, and worth a story for the sports section. The reporter tried again. I go to the East coast, the West coast, here.
They give me a ticket at school and I get on a bus or a plane and go. My business is to run. Rebuffed, the reporter struggled to start the athlete talking again. Back in the newsroom, the reporter told the editor about his difficulties. They seemed to begin with his first question about whether the athlete had been to the town before, he said.
His boss was not sympathetic. You might have used it to break the ice. Or you could have asked him about the condition of the track, something he knows about. Then the editor softened.
He knew that interviewing is not easy for young reporters, that it can be perfected only through practice. That could make an interesting focus for the piece. Yes, the reporter said, he had managed to draw the hurdler out about where he had been in the last few months.
This incident illustrates the four principles of interviewing:. Prepare carefully, familiarizing yourself with as much background as possible. Establish a relationship with the source conducive to obtaining information. Ask questions that are relevant to the source and that induce the source to talk. Listen and watch attentively. Because much of the daily work of the journalist requires asking people for information, mastery of interviewing techniques is essential.
The four principles underlie the various techniques the reporter uses. Clearly, the sportswriter's troubles began when he failed to prepare by obtaining background about the athlete he was to interview. Lacking background, the reporter was unable to ask questions that would draw out his source. Furthermore, he had failed to establish a rapport with the hurdler, so that the session was more like dentistry than journalism, with the reporter painfully extracting bits and pieces of information from an unwilling subject.
Fortunately, the reporter had listened carefully so that he managed to salvage something from the interview. If we analyze news stories, we will see they are based on information from several kinds of sources: physical sources, such as records, files and references; the direct observations of the reporter; interviews with human sources; online sources. Most stories are combinations of two or three of these sources.
Glance at today's newspaper. A story about the city's plan to put desk officers on the street quotes the police chief. An obituary contains an employee's comments about the generosity of his late boss. Straight news stories seem to consist of physical sources and observations. Yet if you examine them closely, you will more often than not find information a source has supplied through an interview, brief as that interview may have been.
Let's examine in detail the four principles of interviewing that we mentioned following the young reporter's frustrating interview with the hurdler. Persistence is necessary to persuade people to be interviewed, and it is essential in following a line of questioning that the subject may find objectionable. Preparation may consist of a few minutes spent glancing through a story in last week's newscast before dashing out to interview a congresswoman on a flying visit to look at the local Veterans Hospital where cutbacks have affected care.
It may be a prolonged examination of clippings, material from Nexis and articles that databases have turned up for a profile of the new university president. From the man's past you learn what questions are likely to stimulate a response. Research begins with the library's clippings about the subject. The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature may list a magazine article about the topic or the person.
Who's Who in America and other biographical dictionaries can be consulted. People who know the interviewee can be asked for information. These resources provide material for three purposes: 1 They give the reporter leads to tentative themes and to specific questions.
With experienced subjects, interviews usually go smoothly as both stand to gain from the interview: The subject will have his or her ideas and comments before the public, and the reporter will have a story. The reporter has to find ways to reach the source. Advance Work. Do research on the interview topic and the person to be interviewed, not only so you can ask the right questions and understand the answers, but also so you can demonstrate to the interviewee that you have taken the time to understand the subject and also that you cannot easily be fooled.
A major purpose of the interview will be to obtain quotes, anecdotes and other evidence to support that theme. In preparing for interviews on sensitive subjects, theorize about what the person's attitude is likely to be toward you and the subject you are asking about, What is his or her role in the event? Whose side is he or she on? What kinds of answers can you logically expect to your key questions? Based on this theorizing, develop a plan of attack that you think might mesh with the person's probable attitude and get through his or her probable defenses.
When the source concludes that the risks outweigh the possible gains and decides to provide little or no information or is misleading, the reporter has several alternatives. At the other extreme, the reporter can demand information. If the source is a public official, such demands are legitimate because officials are responsible to the public.
Usually, the source will fall into line. A public official cannot evade a question with a plea of ignorance. Told by the reporter it was his business to know that and that the story would state so, the controller supplied the information.
The Questions. For some interviews, these may involve age, education, jobs held, family information. Questions of this sort are nonthreatening and help make for a relaxed interview atmosphere. Also, they are sometimes necessary because of conflicting material in the files, such as discrepancies in age or education.
People want to know these details. Harold Ross, the brilliant and eccentric former newspaperman who founded and edited The New Yorker, slashed exasperatedly at the pages of profiles and interviews that lacked vital data.
Even the obvious questions about background can result in fascinating and revealing answers. For a personality profile, the interviewer asked Whoopi Goldberg why she adopted Goldberg as her stage name. She replied:. It's a name from the family past. There are lots of names hangin' on our family tree, Jewish, Catholic, Asian.
Black folks, white folks. Simple question. Fascinating quotation. Direct Questions Most questions flow from what the reporter perceives to be the theme of the assignment. The same process is used in the more complicated interview. A reporter is told to interview an actor who had been out of work for two years and is now in a hit musical. The reporter decides that the theme of the story will be the changes the actor has made in his life.
These three questions induce the actor to talk at length. The reporter decides to ask about the singer's experiences that led him to write songs that call attention to war, poverty, sexism and racism. There is a good market in such songs. The reporter then quickly shifts themes and asks questions about the economics of popular music and the singer's personal beliefs.
Applied properly, both have their merits. The reply may cover the failure of anticipated revenues to meet expectations, unusually high increases in construction costs, higher interest rates and other factors that have caused trouble for the city. Good questions are the result of solid preparation, and this requires more than reading the local newspaper and chatting with authorities.
Reporters who hold to these narrow confines usually operate only in a linear fashion.
Interviewing Principles. Reporters conduct two kinds of interviews:. A news peg often is used to justify the profile. For effective interviews, reporters prepare carefully, and they ask questions that induce the source to talk freely.
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Reporters can be a wily bunch. In their efforts to get to the truth, bottom of the story, real deal, or the inside skinny, they just might let slip a tricky question. If you are on the receiving end of such an inquiry, the last thing you want to let slip is a less-than-ideal answer. There are ways to address such interrogatory snags, including the techniques we teach in our media training classes. As a spokesperson, you need to know the types of tricky questions reporters ask and how to answer them.