Steps for story-based farm radio programming – Step 5: Interviewing and well-crafted questions

    | January 26, 2009

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    Broadcasters participating in the African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) recently engaged in training to produce story-based radio programming. We’re sharing part of the training materials here in the Radio Resource Bank. Below you’ll find Step 5 of an eight-step guide to story-based farm radio programming, which focuses on how to use well-crafted questions in an interview.

    To re-visit the first four steps, visit the following:
    Step 1: Topical thinking
    Step 2: Practical research
    Step 3: Focus and story idea
    Step 4: Formats and program plan

    Interviewing is at the core of what we do to bring stories to the radio. A good interviewer:
    -helps the guest to tell his or her story in the best possible way, and;
    -does not focus on making statements or telling stories him/herself.

    Everyone has a story to tell, though not everyone may know it. A good interviewer helps people tell their stories by asking questions to draw out detail and emotion. Good interviewers listen for the complications people face and how they resolve them.

    How you word your questions greatly affects the outcome of the interview. The beginning of an interview usually deals with the “what”: what is someone doing? Then it moves to the “why”: why would the person do that? What is the person’s motivation? Finally, the interviewer tries to find out what this means in the present and in the future.

    Good interviewers ask questions that require the guest to tell a story – to describe action, to provide description, to give emotion and understanding. To draw out these qualities, the best questions are “open-ended.” Open-ended questions require more than a yes or no answer. What, how, and why are the magic words of interviewing because they elicit the answers that build stories. Before an interview, you’ll want to prepare by drafting questions (without, of course, feeling locked into those questions). Use them as a guide and let the interview flow.

    A closed question: “Do you use super dust to protect your maize?”
    An open-ended question: “How do you protect your maize?”

    Example: An audio interview about beehives from CTA. As you listen to the interview, consider: In what ways does this interview help draw out details or emotion?