Make a List of Questions

After you’ve organized your facts and made a list of the people you need to interview to back up or refute your thesis, make a list of questions that you intend to ask.  It’s good to think about how you might structure your story as you construct your questions.

If you intend to start your story with a traditional lead, it’s good to have someone repeat to you the basic information that you’ve already ascertained – the who, what,where and when?  Even if you summarize those facts in your narration, hearing it from some other authority should help confirm your own understanding of things.  If in fact, you are wrong about a key issue or even a small detail, now is the time to find out. You’re sure to be able to get this from the event organizer.  Ask open-ended questions like:

What is this event and what is it about?

What do you hope to achieve?

Why is this important?

What happens if you don’t get what you want?

If the event you’re covering is a rally or a press conference, then those answers are also likely to come from the speakers so if you can’t locate an event organizer make sure to record one or more of the key speakers.  The questions you come up with for event organizers are also good for event participants but it’s better if you can get more specific.  Find out who they are and why they came to the event.   Get them to talk specifically about how they may be affected by the issue behind the rally.  Try and get a specific story.

Interview the other side, the counter rally if they are there.  Ask them for specifics as well.  Find out why they disagree with speakers or event organizers and what alternative solutions they have to offer.  Find out how they are personally impacted by the issue.

While you are recording, remember to listen to the answers and be prepared to ask follow up questions.   If someone says something that seems important but they don’t explain it very well, get them to explain it again.  It may be good information, but if it’s not coherent, you may not be able to use it.

Coming up with questions for an investigative report depends on your investigation. As discussed earlier, you should have a central premise.  The questions you come up with should lead to answers that will either support or refute that premise.  For example, if I were producing an investigative report about DC public school funding and my thesis was that the schools are funded unequally and the result is unequal education, then I’d need to find proof of inequity in the funding process AND experts who could provide specific examples of how that results in an unequal educational experience.   My sources might be teachers, administrators, students, parents, etc.,  The questions would be specifically about the funding process, amounts that go to different schools, how the money is spent and what kind of experience stake holders have either in providing or receiving an education via DCPS.

Regardless of how well you’ve planned your interview, your first question should be the persons name and their title or however they want to be identified on tape.  The last question should be if they have anything else they’d like to add, anything they think people should know that hasn’t already been said.  When you’re finished always thank the person you’ve interviewed.  It’s also a good idea to get contact information from them if you can.

The Pre-Production for a News Feature or Investigative Report Worksheet summarizes all of the main points laid out on this and the four previous pages.   I hope that it will be useful to students who are just starting out as well as more experienced producers who can use these guidelines to organize their ideas.