Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bad interview, good interview

A little bit more than a decade ago, we had a problem here at our office.

Part of our department's duty is to train employees about the proper way to conduct a news interview. For those of us who do this on a regular basis, it's old hat. We can get up in front of the camera and hit key point after key point with skill, giving the reporter what he or she needs to create a great story - even if it's about a tough topic.
Now is not the time to panic!
For those who don't know how to do it, it can be one of the most terrifying experiences in the world. There's the unblinking camera eye. The reporter who works for 'those people' in the media. The feeling that they have a piece of spinach stuck between their teeth or some other unforgivable gaffe. Or, the fear that they will not know what to say when asked a question, and they will look dumb.
Middle school students treading the boards...
It happens to all of us. I can remember being in plays while in elementary school, sweating the moment that I would be in front of the audience. Even though I knew my lines and cues and had been to more than a month of rehearsals, that fear always crept into the back of my mind as the curtain rose. It's a natural thing.

Even though we spent a lot of time teaching our employees about what went into a good TV interview and what could derail the process, we still got the occasional blank stare.

That's when one of our videographers and I hit on the idea of not only telling our students how to conduct an interview, but showing them a frank comparison between a good interview and a bad one. Within an afternoon, we had scripted the idea of the Media Zone.

In this three-minute video, Assistant Park Manager 'Tony Bagadonuts' is approached by a reporter and news photographer about recent reports of coyotes roaming county parks. There is a distinct difference between the first and second interviews, and, once this video is shown in our classes, it's easy to tell that the light bulbs switched on over the heads of our students. They could plainly see the contrast between the two interviews.

Now, I'm not saying that the second interview was perfect. 'Tony' managed to stumble his way through a few lines. The best thing about the video is that it leads to a lively discussion of what didn't work in the first part, and what worked well in the second.

This video has become a staple of our media training, and I hope you find it interesting enough to use in yours.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist

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