Looking for some engaging ways to teach youth media production? Check out Teach Youth Radio, and click on #6 in the line up of offerings there, where you’ll find all sorts of tips on identifying topics, writing commentaries, conducting interviews, etc.
Here’s an activity based on one Youth Radio Senior Producer Rebecca Martin designed to give young people practice on booking guests for interviews and roundtable discussions—could happen face-to-face, on the radio, or online.
• Divide students into teams.
• 1 team member will participate in each round as a booker.
• Adult producers and other students will serve as interviewees.
• Team members will be scored on their performance based on
Greetings and Manner (Are you polished, confident, and compelling?)
Pitch (Are you clear and convincing in how you describe your project?)
Questions (Do your questions yield relevant answers and good stories? Do you probe for more information?)
Closing (Consider three types: confirmation, back-up, rejection)
Some booking tips:
• Ask people you trust when searching for guests. Know where to look for information and what to look for.
• Write out questions before pre-interviewing anyone. Write a 2-3 line description of the story (or show) you are booking. Write important details you’ll need, like the day and time you are trying to book, and location information.
• When cold calling organizations or businesses for guests, don’t give up just because you are told no. Ask if there’s anyone else you can talk to.
• The first person who says yes isn’t always the best person.
• Just because someone is chatty doesn’t mean he or she will be a thoughtful guest.
• Be sure the guest is a reliable source, and he or she offers other resources on the topic.
Always consider a person’s potential biases.
• Think about how you want to frame the “youthiness” of the story. Sometimes, Youth Radio reporters emphasize that they’re part of a journalism training program. That angle taps people’s eagerness to contribute to youth-initiated projects and learning. Other times, they highlight the organization’s track record of national broadcasts and high-profile awards. That angle taps people’s interest in reaching significant audiences and helping to shape a national conversation. It all depends on what you think will be most effective and resonant with your potential interviewees. But no matter what, you are ethically and legally bound to let people know that they will be identified by name and recorded for possible broadcast.
• When finishing a conversation, don’t promise anything. You can always tell guests that you need to check in with your colleagues, and warn them of possible changes in the show.
Once you’ve booked your guests, analysts, or characters for your story, the next step is to come up with interview questions. For young people conducting interviews for the first time, role-play the conversation in advance, with a peer or adult producer acting the role of the interviewee. Don’t hesitate to have fun with this. Have young people assign the “interviewee” different personality characteristics: talkative, tight-lipped, obnoxious, offensive, nervous, condescending, dominating, tangential…and come up with a signal (a buzzer, a bell, a pointer) to make the interviewee switch character on demand throughout the role-play. Stage the interview as a performance in front of your full group, and then debrief together about what worked and what didn’t. This way, the group learns from one young person’s preparation.