Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 16:34 UK

Journalism tips: Political reporting

School Reporters outside Number 10 Downing Street

As part of School Report, many students will be devising questions to put to their local councillors and national politicians about issues that concern them.

Here are 10 top tips from BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins.

His advice supports the activities in School Report Lesson 2: Gathering the news

1. Do your research.

Has the politician done a similar interview before? Do you know what they are likely to say? Is there something interesting in their past to which you can refer?

2. Listen to their rivals.

Every politician has opponents. Find out what they say before you begin

3. Make your questions specific.

Bad example: What are you doing about pollution?
This is a general question which invites a stock response.

Good example: How can you encourage people to ditch their cars in favour of public transport?
This is more specific. Your guest will need to think about the answer.

4. Add some of your personal experience.

Bad example: What are you doing about vandalism?

Good example: There are burnt out cars in my street. What are you doing to stop vandalism like that?

Pupils prepare to interview David Cameron

5. Ask them something they won't expect.

Politicians are used to answering questions about big issues such as crime or taxes. Try something different.

Good example: During School Report 2006/7, Bridie, 12, from Park House School in Berkshire asked David Cameron: "If the Conservative Party were to form a boy band, who would be in it?"

6. Don't stick to a script.

Prepare questions, but listen to your interviewee's answers and be ready to ask others.

7. Make eye contact.

Look at your list of questions, but also look up. The more it sounds like a conversation between two people, rather than a question and answer session, the better your interview will be.

8. Don't be afraid to interrupt.

Give your guest a fair chance to answer your questions - but if their answers last minutes, there is nothing wrong in stopping their flow.

Jeremy Paxman interviews George Galloway

9. Play them a tape.

If you've done a great interview with someone else on the topic you are asking about, play it to them and capture their reaction.

10. Develop your own style.

Read about or watch these journalists in action:

Both styles are effective, but very different. Develop your own.

Have your students interviewed a local councillor or national politician? Please let us know about it using the form below:

Your Email address
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The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


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