Don’t be shy to ask for an interview. Candidates like the opportunity to gain media coverage, and as a community radio broadcaster you have an audience they can reach.
- Find out who is running in your local area. The Tallyroom is a useful website that lets you search by electorate: http://www.tallyroom.com.au/. If you do not know your electorate, you can look it up on the Australian Electoral Commission website: http://apps.aec.gov.au/esearch/Default.aspx
- Send them an email or letter, and definitely follow it up with a phone call. Don’t be deterred, you will probably be put in contact with their media and communications officer who will help you organise the interview. Let them (or their staff) know you are a broadcaster and which station and program you are from. Also, let them know your reach: how many people you speak to in your community, how many people you broadcast to and how far your signal reaches. Highlight the benefits of being on your show – you might have a large reach, or you might have smaller audience but in a marginal area, or in an electorate where multicultural issues are a deciding topic.
- The politician or their media officer will probably want to know what sort of program you present, how long the interview will go for, would it be a live or pre-recorded interview and what you will be talking about. Make sure you have this information ready to give them. Don’t deceive them by telling them you are doing a ‘soft’ program when you really mean to ask some very tough questions.
- If they ask for a list of questions, give them a few general dot points on the topics you would like to talk about, but don’t feel pressured to give them a detailed list with the exact wording. Providing the exact questions will ruin some of the spontaneity of the interview and will not be as interesting for your listeners.
- If the politician cannot come into the studio to be interviewed, consider booking a phone interview. If you are nervous about a face-to-face interview, organise a pre-recorded interview so there is less pressure. A pre-recorded program can be a good choice.
Do Your Research
- Look into which politicians are in your area and find out what they like: do they play sport, do they have children, what is their background, are they married to someone from an ethnic background? This will allow for some small talk on the program and for a ‘softer’ interview. It also helps you to develop your discussion and questions.
- Look at the big election issues and the issues that face the ethnic community: refugees and migration, the environment, languages in schools, education, employment, foreign aid etc.
- Look at the Background Information section of this Toolkit.
- Create your own fact sheet — with the key points and questions you want to cover in the interview.
- Develop your questions and try them on friends.
- Think about responses that the political leaders may give and prepare your response. Make sure they stay on track and answer your questions. Politicians tend to use the same slogans over and over again to get out of giving direct answers, so try and keep them on topic and to the point.
- Listen to other radio or TV interviews about the election. Develop your own style.
- Read the newspapers and online news websites in the lead up to your interview so you are up-to-date on the issues; especially on the day of the interview. Something topical that has happened that week might provide a good lead to start your program.
- Take note of what the political leader you will interview has said in other recent interviews; search for them in newspapers, radio and the internet, even Twitter. Think about what they are not saying – this could lead to some interesting questions!
- Repeat your key messages and questions so you know your main goal for the interview.
- Practice the interview with a friend or colleague. Get your friend to divert from the question and try to bring them back on track.
During the Interview
- Before the interview, make sure you have someone to meet the political leader. When they arrive, this is good manners and it creates a good impression. They will be more likely to come back on the show if you are respectful. If they are phoning in, let them know how long you’ll have them on hold and remind them of the name of the show, station and presenters before you put them on hold and then bring them on air. This will help put them at ease.
- During the interview, listen carefully so you can respond.
- Ask clarifying questions – if you don’t understand it then your audience probably will not understand either.
- Do not be afraid to take it easy; ‘small talk’ can bring out some interesting responses and it is, after all, community radio and it can go slow and steady.
- If the politician is not answering your question you can interrupt and say something like: ‘That’s an interesting point, but my question was…’
- If the politicians use general responses and you feel they are diverting from the questions because they are saying:
‘I don’t have all the details, but what I know is …’
Invite them back on air to explain it later. Ask for the details to be sent to you and you will continue to report on it …
If they say things like ‘That is indeed important, but what’s even more important is…’
Bring them back on track and try and get them to answer your question.
If they try to answer a question by criticising an opposition party’s policy you can say:
‘Yes, but we would like to know what your party’s policy (or your opinion) is on this matter …’
Who to Invite
All political parties need to be invited. Once you have had one political candidate on your program, that can be an incentive for other candidates so they get the same coverage. An independent might want more media opportunities and be the first to come on your program. Afterwards you can follow up with other candidates, letting them know which other candidates you have invited or already had as guests. The important thing is that you give each candidate an opportunity to appear on your show or as a part of your programming. If you are having a roundtable discussion, tell the politicians who else you have invited and brief them on the issues you will be discussing.