Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 17:36 UK

Top 10 tips: Reporting politics

Adam Fleming
Adam reported the US Presidential election

Political reporter Adam Fleming gives his journalistic advice on reporting politics.

1. Be a good listener. Often politicians will give away things in subtle ways and so you need to listen very carefully to the words they use. They very rarely say: "Listen to this next bit of my interview because I am about to tell you that I disagree with the Prime Minister." It's up to you to spot it.

2. Have a good memory. If you hear an interesting fact that might not be totally relevant to the story you're working on at that moment, make an effort to remember it because you never know when it might come in handy. Jot down things in your notepad.

3. Learn the lingo. Politics is full of weird words. Take the time to learn what a "second reading" is or what a "whip" does or the job of a "select committee". It will make you sound very smart but also make things seem less scary.

4. Be wary of numbers. When you hear a statistic, start asking questions because numbers can be manipulated. For example, a politician might say "We are spending so many billion pounds on this." OK, but over how many years? Spread over how many places and people? Is this new money or have you already promised to spend it?

5. Don't be worried if you don't feel like an expert. I used to feel intimidated by people who knew more about a subject than I did, but then I realised that it was my job to ask lots of questions and find things out. Although it helps to know a bit!

6. Try to get a straight answer. Politicians love talking but sometimes don't say very much. Be prepared to ask your question a few times until your interviewee actually tells you something.

7. Be polite. On TV and radio you will hear big-name interviewers giving politicians a really, really hard time. But think carefully about the difference between tough questions and rude ones.

8. Spot a change. Compare what people are saying now with what they've said before because a politician changing their mind means there's a story somewhere!

9. Watch lots of news. You need to know what politicians have been saying on other programmes and you need to know what else is going on the world because politics touches on a lot of other issues.

10. Keep your political opinions to yourself. The BBC's job is to be fair and impartial which means you can't let your own views come across or interfere with your reporting.

Adam caught the reporting bug when he worked in local commercial radio in Oxford during his Geography degree. Find out more about his career on the Daily Politics website.


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