How to tell if you’re asking good questions
by Ruth Schapira
Why can’t most media types ask thought-provoking questions?
I imagine that there must be some sort of training in reporter/host school that teaches its students to ask proper questions that engage both the viewer and participant. So why do I hear all types of reporters asking the most mundane questions, spoon-feeding their subject?
Where are the questions that instill a sense of wonder; an opportunity to gain something new from the interaction? Why is it that almost every time I hear a reporter or host ask someone a question I feel the questions are elementary and useless. I gain nothing. Seriously, is it any wonder that there is a problem today with students’ capacity to think?
Invariably the questions are a version of these options:
- So, how happy are you now that you’ve won……..(on a scale of 1 – 10?)
- Please tell us how confident you feel after ……..(quite confident actually)
- So, how disappointed are you now that …………..(I wasn’t that disappointed until you mentioned it…..)
- How proud are you of your son? (really, what would someone possibly say in response?)
- How much do you love your new neighborhood? (well, actually our neighbors are really quite nasty….)
These questions spoon-feed the subject. Asking questions that provide the answers wastes my time and insults my intelligence. We’ve gotten used to canned questions and answers, compromising everyone’s ability to think critically. If I was a lawyer, I’d say that these questions ‘lead the witness’. So, let’s not pretend that we’re gaining new insight when we listen to these interviews.
What if different questions were asked? What if people were actually asked to think? See how these similar but altered questions might have a different response:
- So, how are you feeling right about now?
- Please tell us about this experience…..
- Share how this moment is affecting you…..
- What is your reaction to this?
Which interview would engage you? Which answers would grip you right away? Which ones would make the subject and the viewer think just a little bit more? Which ones would tell a better story?