6 types of questions reporters invariably ask

Most journalists have techniques they use to get meaty quotes from interview subjects. Here’s how to give them the meat without letting them draw blood.

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In 1999, upon reporting for my first Sunday shift at CNN, I was invited into a “question” meeting with Wolf Blitzer and his executive producer.

The three of us sat around for 15 minutes, coming up with questions for former Vice President Dan Quayle, who was mounting a bid for the 2000 GOP nomination.

We developed a seemingly impressive list of questions, but I noticed that the questions all fit inside certain categories. Some questions were intended to be “stumpers”; others called for speculation.

That taught me an important lesson. Spokespersons don’t have to prepare for every possible question. They simply must prepare for every type of question. Below, you’ll find the types of questions reporters always seem to ask—and how to answer them with ease.

1. Questions you don’t know the answer to

Many of our trainees get stumped during a live interview when they’re asked a question to which they don’t know the answer.

For example, a physician might be asked, “How many people are diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer each year?” If she doesn’t know the answer, she might stumble before finally saying, “I don’t know.”

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