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Is getting a good quote more on the writer or the athlete?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Rumpleforeskin, Jan 23, 2008.

  1. Rumpleforeskin

    Rumpleforeskin Active Member

    I was discussing this with a fellow journalist. Do you feel when you get a good quote, is it more on the writer to ask a good question or the athlete to make something out of nothing?

    I guess it depends on who you cover, because Terrell Owens is always a quotable source as well as Chad Johnson, but yet, people get great quotes from college and high school games.

    Where does the responsibility fall?
  2. Damaramu

    Damaramu Member

    I guess it depends. Some people will give you a good quote no matter the question. And then there are those that can somehow answer yes to a non yes or no question.
  3. GB-Hack

    GB-Hack Active Member

    I think some of it, especially with high school and college kids, depends on how comfortable they feel with you. I've known some kids who over the course of a season go from the one-word answers to really great quotes.

    I think another part of it is in high school they're worried they're going to say something that sounds silly, so reassuring them that they're not coming across as idiots has never hurt, at least for me.

    Quick addendum to this. I've always found that on most teams, there are the guys who love to act the fool, and will say close to anything, within reason. Now, you need to find out who they are, because you can get them to join an interview with the star player who maybe doesn't talk as much, and he/she'll will often loosen up with the loose cannon/buddy around.
  4. It's my story, it's my responsibility. I'm not using shitty quotes, so I need to find good quotes.

    The key is letting the guy talk. The first sentence is rarely the best one. Just keep asking dumb questions, if you're struggling. If he's recounting a story or event, I have a lame trick where I recount what the person just said to get him to tell me again in more detail and in a complete sentence ...
  5. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    If a source isn't going to give you a good quote, you're not going to force it out of him no matter what you do.

    That said, I think there's a lot of strategies a writer can employ to fish out a good quote. Most of it is mental:
    - Reading the situation
    - Reading the source (i.e., making them feel comfortable, letting them talk/staying out of your own way, knowing when they're ready to really say something good and asking them the right question that will open the floodgates)
    - Being ultra-prepared, and using that preparation to ask keen follow-up questions (the questions you prepare on your notepad before the interview rarely produce the best quotes)
    - Never being afraid to ask more questions
    - Never being afraid to ask dumb simple questions
    - Never being afraid to call back to ask about that one answer that doesn't quite sit right (think: Lt. Columbo, "Oh, just one more thing ..."), and so on.

    So, ultimately, I think the responsibility is on the writer.
  6. UMDjschool

    UMDjschool New Member

    Too many writers depend entirely on the question-answer format when interviewing athletes while failing to have an actual conversation. Some reporters will try to ask the same question ten times in a row to get the quote they think will make the story instead of just talking about the game and letting good material come naturally. I've heard some absolutely ridiculous conversations between reporters and athletes where the reporter spent a valuable half-hour stumbling around because of inexperience, nerves, or fandom. That said, getting a good quote is on the reporter because the only stake the athlete has in the interview is not saying something that makes them look bad. The reporter can do a good, great or terrible job and the athlete might not change their tune. Even harder is interviewing an athlete who doesn't speak English well. The bottom line is that relying on a quote to make the story work when you dont have a guaranteed source of good material is a bad idea. Let the narrative do the work and quotes will only add to the good foundation.
  7. Babs

    Babs Member

    Being ultra-prepared is the key. Research, research, and more research. The athlete will recognize that you did your homework, respect that you know what you're talking about, and be more willing to talk to you. If you go in as an idiot, the athlete will talk to you like you're an idiot. I've seen the same athlete give completely different quotes depending on who is asking.

    The onus is completely on us.
  8. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    I actually had a coach who called me "Columbo" when he saw me coming. It stemmed from one of my first interviews with him. He was new, I was new and I must have said "one more thing" three times in one of first interviews. He never forgot it. He never let me forget it either.
  9. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I don't think there's any magic formula. You may get boiler plate answers from an athlete to a "great" question or you might get gold from a coach in response to a routine question. If I'm not mistaken, Jim Mora, Sr.'s "Playoffs?!" meltdown was in response to a rather routine question.

    Although, I will say that when I covered the Bowie Baysox (Class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles) last year, I was standing next to a reporter from a Web site when he was asking questions from the team's starting pitcher that night. He was asking pretty routine questions and was getting standard responses. I asked a question that might have or might not have been routine and he responded with one of those quotes that HAS to get used.

    I don't know if it was the question so much as the player involved. I will say that sometimes you strike gold with a particular player on a particular team. One player on a different team would always say the same things I observed without my leading him into the question. Then I could say what I thought without editorializing.
  10. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    Wrong. It's a conversation and as any conversation is, it's two-sided. If you ask shitty questions, no, you're not likely to get good quotes. But you can be the most skilled interviewer in the world, but if you're talking some complete idiot who can barely string a sentence together, it doesn't matter.

    There are people who are always good quotes, no matter how bad the questions.
    There are people who are always bad quotes, no matter how good the questions.
    It's up to us to get the best quotes out of the people who fall somewhere in between.
  11. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    I've found that a lot of times, especially with high school athletes and occasionally college athletes, as soon as you find out they're not spectacular with words, don't give them anything in the question.

    If the player had the game-winning goal on an odd-man rush, don't say "It looked like Smith set you up well there, what did you think about it?" even though it's incredibly obvious that's what happened. Just ask how it happened, and that way, if the scorer knew Smith would be making the pass because of some subtle tip, it will (hopefully) come through.
  12. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    It's possibly because I'm a moron, but I don't understand this post at all. What sport are we talking about here? And why would a guy not great with words come through when you ask him a general question? I'm not trying to be an ass. I genuinely don't get this one.
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