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21 questions

Q+A’s Jack Tame is the pre-eminent interviewer for pushing a question, then pushing it harder. He picks a ‘gotcha’ question and asks it pointedly – then again – then again – then again.

When it works, it gives TVNZ a good headline for its online news page. However, it’s downright boring to watch, and uninformative. In last Sunday’s episode, close to four minutes of airtime was spent trying to draw Stats Minister Deborah Russell into staking her job on the census numbers.

It’s poor because it’s easy to defend. Once the first question is warded off with a decent rebuttal, the point becomes nil. Even if a barrier is broken after five questions, it often wasn’t worth the viewer’s effort to get there. They already understand the politician is avoiding the question.

A good question should pivot, display thought, and advance the conversation in a way that keeps the interviewee, and the viewer, on their toes.

Ryan Bridge did this recently when he took a second to consider Carmel Sepuloni’s repeated criticisms of the past National Government ‘leaving a mess’, before asking her what she thought the next government would inherit.

It’s important to remember as an interviewee because it is a useful tactic to control an interview. Viewers are watching to learn. If a journalist won’t give something up, you can tell them the conversation is not useful to the audience, and instead offer up something that is.

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