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Halifax Media Co-op Webinar Part One

by Glen Canning

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This is the first of what we hope will be a few webinars discussing the Halifax Media Co-op and submission guidelines. For further information, please read our Contributor Guidelines.

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Topics: Media
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Hi Hillary and Vivian: This is an excellent Webinar on journalistic reporting. I especially like your advice to avoid asking closed questions that could produce a "yes" or "no" answer. An example would be: "Do you think the Mayor's policy is a good one?" Although an interviewee will often give more than a "yes" or "no" answer to such a question, the journalist asking it will not get the best possible answer. In this example, the journalist has used the word "good" to describe the policy. A better, open-ended question would allow the interviewee to describe the policy in her own words: "What do you think of the Mayor's policy?"

I advocate the method used by John Sawatsky, one of Canada's best investigative reporters and journalism coaches. Sawatsky identifies what he calls "operators" in the questions you ask. In the example above, the operator is "what". It invites a broad response. The operator "why" digs deeper while "when" may call for an anecdote. "Why do you say that the Mayor's policy threatens your efforts to make Halifax a safer city?" "When did you first realize that the new policy could have this effect?"

I advocate using the five Ws (Who, What, Where, Why and When) plus How as question operators. The only time to use other wording would be when you actually want a "yes" or "no" answer. "Have you read the Mayor's new policy?"


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