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Chapter 9




Test questions & PDF



Chapter 9 describes how to prepare for and conduct an interview, including doing background research, planning questions and contacting sources.  It also introduces students to some privacy law, including private facts, intrusion and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.


Chapter 9 exercises in the textbook include the following range:


Doing background research and preparing questions for an interview

Preparing to introduce oneself

Deciding what is appropriate attire

Preparing an email interview request

Deciding how to handle sensitive information in an interview

Analyzing a meeting agenda and proposing questions that need answering


The additional exercises in the Interactive Workbook apply the chapter lessons by asking students to create a structured interview question list; to articulate their choices in selecting a source for a story and in preparing for the interview; and to reason through a set of scenarios where they might encounter privacy law issues.


1.  Interview role-play


a.  Ask for two student volunteers to role-play a short interview.  One student will be the interviewer and the other will be the interviewee.  Prepare for the interviewer a question list that includes a range of types of questions, such as open- and closed-ended questions; those that are so vague that they are difficult to answer; and those that might garner only a canned answer or an answer that wouldn’t contribute much to a story on the person.  You could include some questions like these:


  • Where are you from? 

  • How do you like it here, so far?

  • What is your major?

  • Do you like the food in the cafeteria?

  • What are your hobbies?

  • What sports do you like?

  • Who has been the most influential person in your life?

  • Do you like music?

  • Who is your favorite band?

  • Did your family value education while you were growing up?

  • What do you want to do when you graduate?


Have the other students to take notes on the interview, paying special attention to which questions garner useful responses, or not.  (If you provide the observers a copy of the question list, it’s easy for them to take specific notes.)


b.  When you finish the role-play, ask students to describe what they observed.


c.  Ask the interviewee to describe thinking about and providing answers to the questions in an interview situation.


2.  Creating a question list  (Exercise W9-1 in the Interactive Workbook is a corresponding assignment.)


Use the Interactive Workbook exercise to talk about,


a.  assessing questions as they relate to the overall purpose of the interview


b.  identifying problematic questions, such as those that are less relevant to the purpose of the interview, and revising leading questions, if applicable


c.  how to structure an interview so that its logic makes sense to the interviewee 


Some ideas:


Ask students to search steampunk images, or to check out social media sites such as this Facebook page to refine or generate questions.


Suggest themes that students could use to group the questions, such as:


  • a basic description of steampunk

  • tips for the lay person

  • questions about Boudreaux herself


Suggest questions that students can omit: questions about her family can probably be omitted, unless students come up with a compelling reason to keep them—what’s the news value? 


Identify some loaded questions, such as 6 and 14, and ask students to reword them so that they are not leading.


3.  Students interview each other


In this activity, students practice interviewing a peer in a classroom environment, gaining some experience before they go out to interview strangers.


a.  Pair students up, and ask them to gather basic information about each other, such as contact information, basic biographical information and any public social media sites they post to.


b.  As homework, have students do some background research on their partner, and prepare a question list for a 20-minute interview.


c.   Devote 20 minutes of classroom time for the first student to interview the partner.  Encourage the interviewers to introduce themselves, shake hands and establish rapport.


d.  After the first interview ends, ask students to jot down some notes.  Ask the interviewer to write about how it went—such as, which questions garnered useful answers, which ones fell flat, what revisions to the question list the interviewer would make, and what, if anything, the student learned about interviewing.  Ask the interviewee to write answer the same questions to give constructive feedback to the interviewer later.


e.  Repeat the process with the partners changing roles.


You can continue this activity by asking students to write a short news story based on the information from the interview.  Here is the assignment we use.  (You can add to the assignment by asking students to interview additional sources.)


4.  Interviewing, ethics and newsworthiness


During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, skier Bode Miller won his sixth all-time Olympic medal.  Immediately after that win, NBC’s Christin Cooper, herself a former champion skier, interviewed Miller.  In the interview, Cooper asks several questions about how Miller is feeling, given the fact that his younger brother died less than a year before.  Cooper’s interview drew much attention: Did she push too hard?


a.  Ask students to articulate what warning flags they see, ethically, if any—such as fairness, humaneness and stewardship.


b.  Ask students to determine which, if any, news values justify Cooper’s questions.


c.  Replay the final several seconds, which is when Cooper says that she’s sorry and reaches out to squeeze Miller’s shoulder as the camera keeps rolling. 


d.  Does Cooper’s final reaction to Miller change students’ thoughts about her conduct in any way?


e.  What do students think about the camera staying on, considering ethical principles and also news values?


Several news organizations (along with the blogosphere) joined the conversation, for example:


Fox Sports provides a succinct overview.


The New York Times weighed in on Cooper’s interview with Miller.


The Washington Post also commented.  Scroll down for tweets by Miller responding to the backlash toward Cooper.


5.  Invasion of privacy  (Exercise W9-3 in the Interactive Workbook is a related activity.)


This summary of the 1999 Food Lion-ABC case highlights the intersection between a journalist’s watchdog function and invasion of privacy-intrusion.  You can use it along with Exercise W9-3 to teach students to recognize potential privacy issues. 

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