One of the best things I learned when, as an STV staffer I reported occasionally for ITN was told me by a producer on the home newsdesk. The legendary John Toker had a habit of sending off reporters and their crews by shouting as they left the newsroom “Don’t forget, the questions aren’t important!” Pause while the reporter looked puzzled. “The ANSWERS are important!” The clear message given every reporter was that it didn’t matter what you asked, as long as you came back with some strong answers. Otherwise the chances of your story appearing on News At Ten were considerably limited.
Media training participants are often obsessed with finding out the questions before they’re interviewed – and while it’s always worth asking what the line of questioning will be, and even what the first question will be (though you’re unlikely to be told), remember it’s not that important. Much more important is to work out your messages to the audience and say them. The questions aren’t really that important.
This has a wider and deeper implication today than media interviews. All of America remains stunned by the senseless shooting of fifty innocent people in Orlando.
There are no meaningful questions. But this time the answers are important. While the sad truth is that the horror and outrage will inevitably diminish, as it has since Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Brussels…. This time the responses of the American people to the answers given by their presidential candidates could dramatically decide the future not just of the United States but of the world. They could make things better…or much worse. This time the answers really are important.