Questions Reporters Ought to Ask Political Candidates
Published: June 18, 2008 at 4:26 PM (MST)
I first wrote a version of the article below on my robertniles.com website. I've updated it and brought it over here, to live on SensibleTalk.com.
Journalists should not forget to ask these basic background questions of all political candidates they cover. Their answers will provide warnings about legal, ethical and financial controversies a candidate might face during the campaign. The answers might also provide a good lead for a news feature, and at the very least will guide your research into the candidate's past. Couple these answers with an investigation into who's giving money to their campaigns, and you've got some solid campaign coverage that goes beyond the spin of the campaign trail.
You'll have the best chance to get the straight answers you want -- and to follow up when a candidate gets evasive -- if you ask these questions in person. Protect yourself by recording the candidate's answers, too. Follow up 'yes' answers by seeking full details. Allow candidates to explain themselves -- sometimes past experiences become powerful incentives in a person's development. But if a candidate refuses to answer, or fudges an answer, note that, as well.
A complete set of candidate questions and answers (or refusals to answer) can become a valuable citizens' resource on your organization's website.
Remember, you're not simply trying to play "gotcha" with these inquiries. You are trying to develop a deeper understanding of a political candidate's background, qualification and motivation for public service.
Add in the comments your suggestions for addition questions, strategies for getting engaged answers or examples of interviews you've published.
Robert Niles also can be found at http://www.themeparkinsider.comTweet
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