How do field reporters have all the answers to the questions anchors ask them?



When an anchor interviews the station’s field reporter on the scene, does the reporter know what questions they’re going to be asked? They always seem to be well prepared. I’ve never seen an interaction like:

>Anchor: How many people were in the building when it caught fire?
>Reporter: Uhh, I dunno, I didn’t ask…

There must be some mutual prep ahead of time, but when is it done? And how does the anchor know what they want to know, until the reporter has covered the preliminaries? Is the field reporter in contact with a producer, who then writes questions for the anchor to ask while the anchor is live on other stories, and the anchor gets no say?

In: Other

Does the reporter know the information ahead of time?

Yes of course.

Does the anchor know the information?

Yes, the anchor also knows the information.

Why do they do this question-and-answer bit?

Because it’s a way to present information that makes it easier to capture the viewer’s attention.

What do you mean?

Well, if the reporter were to just recite the facts, we’d get bored and skip the channel pretty fast. But when questions are asked, we are curious and want to learn the answers, so we watch.

So the whole thing is more like theatre than making a speech about the facts?

Yes, exactly.

Yes, it’s all scripted. The field reporters send in a list of questions to the anchor that they want to be asked.

Every once in a while, when there really is a breaking story, you’ll get a genuine back-and-forth. The main clue there is usually that the reporter says “we don’t know” a lot, or repeats meaningless statements without providing any new information.

When the reporter is live during a regularly scheduled news broadcast, that’s sometimes referred to as a “gratuitous live shot”. There’s absolutely no reason for the reporter to be live in the field, it just makes for more dramatic TV. The entire exchange has been scripted.

I wouldn’t call it scripted, but we all work in the same newsroom, so the anchors know the basic info the reporters are dealing with. We all have earpieces, so producers can talk to us. What you assume is a two way conversation actually has more people involved. Also, these aren’t difficult questions. They are all some form of the basic who/what/where/when/why. Before the camera is on, reporter has been on scene getting information. Any journo that can’t answer basic questions on scene is in the wrong field.

It is all prepared in advance.

Remember that an outside broadcast isn’t a spur of the moment thing – the studio make the choice to send out a reporter along with all the crew and equipment needed to make the broadcast, and this is all tested and checked before they cue them in during the appropriate segment.

Part of this preparation is deciding on a set of questions that are to be asked, so the reporter can be prepared with a suitable answer – it would look pretty unprofessional to have a broadcast full of ‘um’ and ‘i don’t know’, and potentially missing out on some of the relevant information.