Archive for July, 2011

I KEEP six honest serving-men
 (They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
 And How and Where and Who.

These are journalist’s questions, taken from journalist Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. As a modern journalist, I would usually add a seventh. ‘How much?’ is a question on everyone’s lips, these days.

But it’s worth contrasting these ‘closed’ questions – which elicit information – with a coach’s questions. The open questions used by coaches, followed by a safe silence, allow the coachee to open up their own thinking about a subject.

As a journalist and a coach, I use both kinds of questions in journalism but, when coaching, I use only open questions.  In fact it was a matter of some pride for me when, training as a coach, I managed an hour’s coaching session without a single ‘closed’ question.  It was liberating for the client. And also in that instance, for me.

But coaches who wish to try their hands at freelance journalism – and there are many – should be wary of using the open question too liberally. Too many open questions will keep you in the interviewee’s hair for far too long – to your mutual irritation. Remember the purpose of interviewing is to elicit information. Closed questions achieve this. When acting as a journalist, it is not in your remit to help the interviewee envisage their future!


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For those who – possibly reluctantly – have to write or speak as part of their work, in Autumn and Winter 2011, Lonely Furrow Company will offer a rolling Continuing Professional Development programme. These will concentrate on special skills required in communication at work – such as story-telling techniques, interview skills, written communication styles and many more.

Lonely Furrow Company Events 

Current Listings:

(All events will take place at The Conservatory, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral CH60 9JF unless otherwise stated.)

October 26th 2011 (1pm – 3.30pm) Written Communication Styles  A CPD/Media Coaching workshop (£25)

November 23rd 2011 (1pm – 3.30pm) Body Language – showing not telling  A CPD/Media Coaching workshop (£25)

November 30th 2011 (1pm – 3.30pm) Organisational Story-telling Techniques A CPD workshop (£25)

December 7th 2011 (1pm – 3.30pm) Written Business Commmunications – emails, letters, press releases, articles. A CPD/Media Coaching Workshop (£25)

January 18th 2012 (1pm-3.30pm) Interview Skills A CPD/media coaching workshop. (£25)

Just contact me if you have further questions.

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Over the years, it’s become clear to me that audience impacts on ‘the writer’s voice.’ As a journalist, I found this a simple formula. You give the readership (represented by the editor) the information it needs in language it can understand. But in other forms of writing – and communication – this co-relationship exists in varying degrees of subtlety.

Creative writing is influenced by audience even if – as in journaling – the audience consists of one person. This ‘one person’ may be split into two, creating – optimally – the friendship of your ‘self’ with your inner editor.  But in this raw state or even if you refine your materials into poetry, novels, short fiction or plays, you remain the first and most important member of your ‘audience’ (more…)

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