Telling Your Story in Sound Bites

Telling Your Story in Sound Bites

Public Knowledge, Media Training Workshop

Session 3: Telling Your Story in Sound Bites

Lata Pandya sitting at a desk in CSULB room HSCI-105
Lata Pandya and other participants at Public Knowledge: Media Training Workshop: Session 3: Telling Your Story in Soundbites

Lata Pandya

News Producer, SoCal Connected
we do longform 7-8 minute piecers

What Makes for a Good Interview, Part 1

Sample Broadcast – lots of clear talking points, and simple yet compelling video illustrations.

  • Interviews very natural, came across as affable, regular people – passionate about what they’re talking about
  • express why you’re so passionate about this issue
  • if the reporter asks for a pre-interview, say yes! You’ll get a sense of what the interview will be
  • Posture: stand up straight, but not stiff, if you use your hands, use your hands
  • think of ways to make subject matter relatable, this is like glass, if it cracks, it’s a problem
  • Artist: Questions vs Answers – what are you trying to evoke in audience?
  • Use part of the question in your answer (in editing you might not see the reporter ask the question)
Susan C. Mills at the front of CSULB room HSCI-105 discussing media interviews
Susan C. Mills

Interview Tips

w Susan C. Mills

Interview Tips – Before

  • Ask about the interview
  • What is the purpose of the interview?
  • (if the reporter calls you directly, call Susan!)
  • Deadline?
  • Where / when will it appear?
  • Will reporter supply questions ahead of time (rare) but might do pre-interview

Research the Reporter

  • What is his/her background?
  • Do they have a reputation as being difficult or asking tricky questions?
  • Read / view / listen to some of the reporter’s recent work
  • Does s/he tend to have a position on the subject?
  • Review key messages, talking points, Q&A – but don’t memorize
  • Visuals! b-roll

Interview Tips – During
All Media

  • keep jargon to a minimum, explain any tech terms
  • speak slowly, look for sound bites
  • if you speak quickly and don’t take a breath, there’s no way they can edit for sound bites
  • reporters will let you talk – especially if it’s controversial, you’ll eventually dig yourself a hole
  • answer the question, but don’t be afraid of silence!
  • speak slowly, take a breath, don’t be afraid of silence
  • phone interview – stand don’t sit, but don’t pace
  • never disparage a competitor – reporter might try to bait you – you can always pivot back to your work – “there are multiple perspectives on this issue, our team looks at it this way…”
  • if you don’t know the answer, admit it and promise a follow up (in print/online)
  • never promise something you can’t deliver
  • “anything else you’d like to add?” – always go back to your key message
  • ask for clarity if you don’t understand a question
  • politely correct an inaccurate statement


  • don’t cross your legs. If possible keep them flat on the floor
  • don’t wear white
  • sit on the back of your blazer so that the collar does not bunch at your shoulders
Glenn Zucman in a white suit and orange shirt sitting on a red couch with a red-orange wall behind it. Photo by Tamara Williams
OMG Yes! Sit on the back of your blazer! When she visited RULA, German photographer Tamara Williams took this otherwise wonderful photo of me – unfortunately I didn’t sit on my jacket! Perhaps no one else notices, but it bugs me every time I look at this!
cover of the Criterion Collection DVD of the James L. Brooks film Broadcast News
Also, if I recall, “sit on your jacket” was the advice William Hurt gave Albert Brooks in Broadcast News


  • Use a landline. Connection is more stable.

Everything is on the record. Nothing is ever off the record. Never say anything you wouldn’t want to show up in print, online, or on the airwaves. Don’t say it in conversation with the reporter afterwards.

Transition from questions asked to a key message. Eg: not exactly, let me explain

Force a follow-up question that sets the stage for a key message: eg: that’s just one of the benefits…

Use verbal cues to underscore importance of forthcoming comment (or gesture / visual cues)

Interview Tips – After

  • email to thank reporter / producer for their interest
  • provide any information you mentioned
  • remind them to send any follow-up questions to you
  • once article appears, email another thank you to the reporter metioning what you liked about the piece
  • if there are incorrect facts, very kindly ask for corrections – only practical for online articles
  • Do Not contact reporter because you din’t like the article / segment or how you were portrayed (won’t help, won’t get you anywhere)

Strong Videos

  • John Shrader – journalism / communications – politics on Fox-11
  • Melania Trump RNC plagiarism – flaws in American journalism are exposed
  • as a journalism faculty member he tries to steer things back to media issues

  • if they don’t relate to you, they don’t believe you!

ABC7 Eyewitness News general assignment reporter Leanne Suter speaking in CSULB room HSCI-105 to a group of faculty and students about television interviews and "Telling your story in sound bites"
Leanne Suter

Leanne Suter

general assignment reporter, ABC7 Eyewitness News
LA area, past 18 years
She comes in at 2pm, is on the air at 4, 5, or 6p – drive, shoot, edit, on-air! 1-4 hours to put your story together (ask what their deadline is!)
No producer, just Leanne
Social Media is a great way to pitch stories – get word out, get reporters interested

What Makes for a Good Interview, Part 2

  • you have 7 seconds to make your 1st impression
  • be yourself!
  • be relatable – public doesn’t know what you know – if they understand you, they can trust you
  • confusing vs concise answer
  • energy, believability – body language is a big thing (don’t think about it too much)
  • once you start thinking, the train goes off the tracks – you know what you’ve studied, repeat question, answer simply (don’t repeat question every time)
  • Local TV & Radio – 5-10 minute interviw > 10-12 second sound bite – keep it concise, relatable, conversational – average story length 90 seconds
  • Network TV & Radio
  • Longform: Dateline, NPR
  • we love video & pictures – show action!
  • keep it conversational, tell me the basics of what you know
  • do you know what the motive is? “no” vs “at this point we don’t know, we’re researching every angle” – 10 seconds, you just got on the air
  • in academic settings we always go through PR, not directly to faculty.
Phatana Ith being interviewed by Lata Pandya and video recorded by Raul de Paz on the grass outside the CSULB HSCI building
Phatana Ith being interviewed by Lata Pandya and video recorded by Raúl de Paz on the grass outside the CSULB HSCI building

Sample Interviews


  • less arm flailing
  • look at interviewer
  • longer answers are ok, but give pauses 4 editing
  • enthusiasm good


  • you started 2 rock a little
  • if this is something just getting off the ground, make that clear
  • if you’re research @csulb, don’t go on too much about OC Water District
  • your Martian statement – clear, concise for someone who knows nothing
  • your Superman pose – stable & confident
  • don’t forget to breathe – slow & w pauses

Watching the Interviews


  • reliability of “rubrics” (not as reliable as you’d expect)
  • rubrics presumed more objective because wholistic grading was assumed to be too biased
  • in reality we use rubrics to justify our initial impressions
  • just having a rubric doesn’t mean you have objective assessment
  • got more comfortable as interview went on
  • “Cal State Long Beach” (vs CSU Long Beach, Long Beach State, etc)

Jose Rodriguez, prof Comm Studies

  • Slido
  • online tools help students voice opinions
  • my vision is to have students create training programs, simulations > jobs!
  • “Hide in class, but prepare for the future” – a nice synopsis Leanne offered – if it worked for Jose, he might have repeated it so she could use it (but be careful)


  • good enthusiasm
  • a lot of animation – don’t have to kill it, but find a middle ground
  • if Leanne is going to pull 8 seconds, what 8 seconds of your 5-10 minutes will it be
  • keep your message in mind in your answers, then can add to that

Dr. Rashida Crutchfield

  • homelessness & hunger on the university campus
  • if you have numbers, use them


  • Continue to refine your key messages & talking points
  • Continue to expand on your Q&A
  • brainstorm locations & visuals you will use in interviews & videos
  • Closing Reception – Thu 17 Nov, 5:30 – 7pm, The Miller House
Raúl de Paz, Lata Pandya & Phatana Ith on the grass at "Friendship Walk" at CSU Long Beach
Raúl de Paz, Lata Pandya & Phatana Ith

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