By Kathy Wyatt
Let’s talk about how you feel.
I read an article recently about the media phenomenon known as the “Talk About.” It oftens happens postgame, when a reporter or broadcaster asks a player to “talk about your approach to tonight’s game.” Or, “talk about what happened in the third period.” Talk about anything at all you want to, because apparently, I don’t have an actual question.
Bryan Curtis, in an article at Grantland.com, refers to the “Talk About” as the worst question in sports. Reflecting on my nearly two decades in the newsroom, I can match that with the worst question in news. Here it is:
“How do you feel about…?”
Hearing that makes me yell at my television. It’s a signal to me that the interviewer probably hasn’t done enough research on the subject and can’t think of anything else to ask. It’s often the first thing that comes to mind for the unprepared or inexperienced journalist.
Of course, no matter what the topic, everyone has a certain feeling one way or another. But it’s important to be more specific and ask pointed questions that will produce information of interest to the audience.
For example, the unprepared interviewer asks, “How do you feel about the tax hike for education?” The informed reporter would ask, “The new education tax hike will take $46 out of your pocket every month. How will that impact your family budget?”
While my journalistic DNA is repelled by the “talk about…” and “how do you feel?” phenomena, as a media coach I have a different take. We encourage our clients to be responsive to media questions, but also to use interviews to their benefit. We make sure our clients recognize those open-ended non-questions for what they are: the equivalent of free passes to be used to deliver a message.
In the end, the journalist in me isn’t sure how to feel about that… but the media trainer in me really wants to talk about it.
Contact Kathy Wyatt at firstname.lastname@example.org