Brian Edwards Media

Media Tip: What are you going to ask me?

Interview

 

Journalists almost never tell you the questions they’re going to ask before you do an interview.  They certainly won’t supply you with a written list of questions.

They may possibly do so if the information they want is strictly non-contentious and informational. If, for example, a reporter is writing a feature on your new processing plant, and the purpose of the feature is simply to provide the audience with interesting facts and figures, she might well give a list of all the things she wanted to know and was going to ask.

But if there is widespread antagonism to the siting of your new plant, which is going to be a blot on the local landscape and probably pollute a nearby stream, the reporter would certainly not tell you her questions in advance.

This doesn’t mean you have to go into the interview blind. Journalists are obliged to tell you the general question areas in advance if you ask for them. So, in this case, the reporter might say that she intended to deal with the issues of: 

  • The visual impact of the plant;
  • Your company’s lack of guarantees that no environmental damage will occur;
  • Your company’s relationship with the local people;
  • Your company’s past record in other areas;
  • The possibility of a compromise being reached.

This outline would allow the reporter to deal with all of these areas in depth in the interview. She could have numerous subsidiary questions, cite as many examples and produce as much evidence as she likes to back her assertions, provided that she remains within the general bounds of the agreed topic areas.

If, however, she suddenly turns in the middle of the interview to the topic of the personal financial crisis you suffered five years ago, before you joined the company, you would be entitled to refuse to answer the question and to terminate the interview.

In telling you the question areas she was going to discuss, the reporter effectively formed a contract with you which she later broke.

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4 Comments:

  1. Nothing whatsoever to do with the topic, but I assume that you will not be availing yourself of a free bus and heading for the Pro Democracy demonstration (AKA Fight for the right to hit kids) in Akl this weekend?

    • I assume that you will not be availing yourself of a free bus and heading for the Pro Democracy demonstration (AKA Fight for the right to hit kids) in Akl this weekend?

      Your assumption is correct, Ben. More on that tomorrow.

  2. Good; I look forward to reading your thoughts on the matter.

  3. The interviewer should always have free rein to veer off the well-treaded path, within reason. Never undervalue the element of “surprise”, in being entertained by a creative, lateral-thinking interviewer.

    Remember: Entertainment is just as valid as Enlightenment when it comes to interviewing. Lots of fun seeing someone squirm, with discomfiture, at being caught out. You need to look no further than BE, in his heyday. Yes siree… a good ol’ grillin’ makes for fine fun. Fine fun, indeedy.