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No. 63 – Preparing for News Media Interviews – 3

March 7, 2012

What Reporters Want!

Reporters are not usually experts on the subject matter they are assigned to cover for a current news story. This is especially true for events involving radiation and nuclear technology. However, they want their story to be as factual and accurate as possible. Therefore, they may seek out experts on the current event to obtain the best information available. For TV news, they also want to provide video coverage of action at the scene of the news event. At the same time, they will want to interview the on-scene authority or spokesperson for a first-hand report from someone whom they expect should know the answers they are looking for.

In addition to on-the-spot action coverage and input from an authoritative spokesperson or other involved party, what else will reporters look for?

Journalism Builds on Conflict

Conflict is the key ingredient in news. Therefore, while reporters may not be experts on the topic, they are quick to identify conflicts. News reporters would rather focus on politics than on science. Why? Because conflicts among people, organizations, policies, and actions are things they can understand and their readers or viewers can understand. Conflicts can be covered in the present tense in specific, concrete, and simple language that reporters would prefer rather than the abstract technical language of science. How then will the reporter approach the story?

Reporters Want to Cover the Viewpoints

Every involved person, stakeholder, and even observers, will have a point of view on the current event or conflict. Therefore, every person with a viewpoint is a potential candidate for a news interview.

Reporters want to simplify and clarify issues to a level that is meaningful to their audiences. This means they want issues that can be portrayed as black or white, right or wrong, and yes or no. They do not like to deal with the uncertain middle ground between two poles of an issue. They do not like answers that are qualified or hedged with uncertainty; the way risk assessments are presented as probabilities. They want answers in clear and certain terms, in simple language, and without technical jargon.

The Goals of News Reporters

Reporters want to: 1) identify conflicting claims, 2) cover the opposing views as fairly as possible, 3) give each side their chance, and 4) accurately report what is said. For journalists, balance and objectivity means covering all sides of a news story.

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