Friday, November 5, 2010

Too many questions, too little time

Occasionally I'm on a story and there's a rookie there among the media horde. And if it's a situation in which everyone gets a one-on-one interview, I know that if the rookie goes first I can go out to lunch and come back.

Why? Because many young reporters are so afraid of missing something they'll ask every question in the book. And then they'll ask variations of the same questions.

I also noted this in various newsrooms when new reporters would come back to the station and have to wade through a twenty minute interview to get one sound bite.

And these days, you don't have that much time to put your packages together. So to save time, you need to simplify your interview.

You can do this in two ways. The first is to really pay attention to the answers you're getting. Many of you are writing your questions down on a pad, and then, after you've asked a question, you're too busy reading the next one to hear what the person being interviewed is saying. Many times there's a great bite early in the interview, and if you heard it, you'd know it. But if you weren't paying attention, you'll keep asking every single question on your list.

So pay attention to your answers... you might get two great bites in the first two minutes, and then you're good to go.

The second way to shorten your interviews is to truly consolidate your questions. Ask the most important questions first, those most likely to get the good sound bites. And if you've got questions that are very similar, then combine them or eliminate one of them.

Too many reporters spend too much time wading through tape when it's time to edit. If you'd shortened the interview process and truly listened to your answers, you'd hear the bites as they were being spoken and would know exactly where to find them when you sat down to edit.


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