Sarah Booker


Interviews take preparation, even the experts are thrown by blatant lies

Today’s big news story is the blatant lie by Kellyanne Conway during an interview on US television, when she created the Bowling Green Massacre.

Apparently it wasn’t covered.

Seriously, a terrorist attack not covered by news organisations? I think not.

Watching the interview online, it is clear MSNBCs Chris Matthews is flustered by this fairytale.

When he should have said “Please elaborate”, he didn’t. 

Maybe he didn’t want to look foolish on live television. 

Who can blame him for being thrown off his game when faced with a blatant lie.

Apparently she meant to say Bowling Green terrorists. A duo who never planned an attack on US soil!

The key thing trainees should take from this is never be afraid to ask something outside your plan. 
Prepare and listen are key when interviewing.

Prepare your questions in advance, have an idea of where you’re going and want to go.

However, listen for the cues telling you the story is going in a different direction.

Listen to what the interviewee says and question and ask them to expand on information you don’t know.

It’s better to get it right than keep quiet for fear of looking foolish.

For the past 18 months I’ve moderated on and been interviewed by junior reporters taking their NQJ senior journalist exams.

There are times when a look of panic crosses their face as they realise I’ve given them something and they need to go off piste.

Some hold on to their list of questions for dear life. 

Those who pass spot the cue and follow the new line. 

They get all the information and the keys to a great story.


Ten key lessons from inspiring and terrifying Fleet Street Fox

Fleet Street Fox at Journalist Works

Fleet Street Fox at Journalist Works

I always enjoy a talk from Fleet Street Fox aka Susie Boniface.

When I first came along to Journalist Works to hear her speak I was packing for my honeymoon, but was such a fan of her blog I had to hear what she said.

It inspired me to sell myself a better for online journalism sessions.

Rather than “I’ve been on the internet since 1995”, I led with a list of my exciting deeds.

Unlike Fleet Street Fox I have never driven a nuclear submarine but I covered Sir John Mills’ funeral and interviewed Rolf Harris (that’s a different blog post).

She always starts off with the hard truths of journalism.

People do think you’re going to turn every conversation you’ve ever had into a news story.

People will stop trusting you as soon as you say what you do for a living.

People will treat you like scum.

You will see and hear horrific things.

But it also is such great fun.

Tweeting and Instagramming Fleet Street Fox's visit to Brighton Journalist Works.

Me (right) Instagramming Fleet Street Fox for Journalist Works, Brighton. Picture by student William Axtell

Here are a ten key lessons for journalists from her talk today (February 19):

  1. Want to work online? You’ll have a career in 20 years
  2. Your objectivity is not enough, it is the reader and source who must believe your ethical objectivity
  3. What you need is a level of enthusiasm bordering on mental illness
  4. Scotch eggs are a complete meal in a ball when you’re waiting on a doorstep
  5. You are not the story. Write for readers not for you
  6. Reporters do not say what they think. If you think someone is a scumbag you can’t tell them
  7. Understanding your analytics means knowing when people are reading. Target your tweets when your readers are online
  8. You get a knee-jerk reaction on Twitter from the headline alone. Facebook readers tend to read the article before sharing and commenting.
  9. Writing online is like writing for the regional press. Readers will tell you when you’ve messed up very quickly
  10. Don’t be a twat


Reasons why no journalist should dismiss social media

Filed under: Social media,Storify — Sarah Booker Lewis @ 10:31 am
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Social media image by Jason Howie, licence by Creative Commons

Social media image by Jason Howie, licence by Creative Commons

Years ago colleagues used to say I was wasting my time joining discussions in the online forums for towns and villages in our patch.

Even when I tracked down someone who was evacuated from a building next to Buncefield Oil Depo as it exploded, they were still sceptical.

Time and technology move on. When I created My Space then Facebook and Twitter accounts for the Worthing Herald colleagues dismissed them as pointless.

I introduced Twitter in 2008. By the time I left the Herald in 2011 everyone in the newsroom asked my advice as they set up their own accounts.

Both Twitter and Facebook have proved useful tools for news gathering as well as distribution.

Facebook community pages and groups help reporters keep up with people’s concerns from cashpoint card cloning to inconsiderate parking and potential child abductions.

Twitter is a great way to keep track of politicians, community groups, local government and events.

Even though the internet isn’t a new thing and social media is an established tool.

Reporters of all ages and experience embrace or resist.

When I asked journalists how they would encourage resisters, there was an assumption the nay sayers were old.

I have taught online journalism skills to NCTJ students in 2009 and in every group I’ve had at least one person say, “I’m not interested in this”, “I don’t want to do online journalism”.

One student who didn’t turn up to my first class in 2009, but ended up working with later summed up the situation very well when I spoke with him at an event in 2013.

“You were the first person I knew talking about Twitter and

“You are right, we need to know this stuff, it’s essential for journalists.”

Below is a link to a Storify explaining why journalists should use social media.


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