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Stop Questioning, Start Creating

I use Grammarly’s plagiarism detector because I sometimes forget the difference between what I said and what I read. 

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Asking listeners a question to begin a topic is lazy, easy, uninspiring and a talk radio cop-out.

Too many radio hosts and personalities on-air, in blogs, and on social media are asking too many questions. The theory goes, “If I ask a question the listener or reader will be compelled to listen, read or click for the answer.” I disagree. More often than not I find I don’t care about the question to begin with. However, I am exponentially more likely to pay attention if someone offers a well thought-out opinion, personal theory or thought-provoking observation. People, in general, have hard time not confirming or denying strongly worded statements.

  • Americans are egotistical.
  • JFK wasn’t a good president.
  • Steroids made baseball better.

It’s likely as you read those statements an inner dialogue began in your head (ie. Well, maybe Americans are egotistical, we probably are, but is that bad? Should we apologize for being confident and proud? In fact, it’s less ego and more certainty and other countries are jealous. And on and on and on…)

These aren’t necessary my personal believes, but examples to prove a point. If these were topics of discussion on radio or online today the first lines would likely read;

  • Are Americans egotistical?
  • How good of a president was JFK?
  • What is one thing that baseball bans actually makes it better?

(A – No. B – Pretty good. C – Tackling?  I don’t really care.)

Questions only draw you in if you’re already interested in the topic at hand. However, a strongly worded statement or compelling argument will draw you into a topic you didn’t even know you cared about.

THINK LIKE A NOVELIST

Consider the first line you utter much like a writer toiling over the first line of a book. It should stir your curiosity and draw you in.

“Call me Ishmael.” That was Herman Melville’s opening line for Moby Dick.

George Orwell began 1984, “It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

And then there’s Dicken’s A Tale of two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

These are considered by many to be among the best opening book lines ever by some of the most prolific authors in history. Questions hardly make the lines more compelling

“Can you call me Ishmael?”

“Why were the clocks striking thirteen on a bright, cold day in April?”

“Was it the best of times or the worst of times? Could it be both?…”

The authors use declarative statements to draw you into their world. They don’t want to bridge the gap between your life and their reality; they just want to suck you into their reality. They do that by immediately establishing the norms, the rules, the laws and parameters that the story abides by.

YOU CAN DO THE SAME THING

Today the questions being asked on sports talk radio are;

  • Are the Seahawks the greatest defense in history?
  • Was Malcolm Smith really the MVP?
  • Can the Seahawks keep the team together?

Rephrasing the questions above as statements instead of questions makes them more provocative, more engaging, and extremely more interesting.

  • This is not the greatest defense in history.
  • Truth is there were four other guys that probably meant more to the Seahawks win and the team than Malcolm Smith.
  • The Seahawks don’t need to keep the team together to keep winning Super Bowls.

It doesn’t matter if I’m right, because it’s my opinion. I just need to back up my statement with compelling facts, stories, or observations. Colin Cowherd likes to say, “I don’t have to be right, I just have to be entertaining.” And he’s right (except when dealing with facts and not opinion.)

TEASE ME, WITHOUT QUESTION

This applies for advance teasing stories too. Asking a question is too easy and, ultimately, a too ineffective way to tease a topic whether you are a host or a news anchor. Write your teases in advance and make them so compelling I can’t afford not to stick with you.

Instead of asking “What was the question asked to Peyton Manning that nearly set him off? That’s next.” I would tease, “After the game, Peyton Manning bit his lip and parsed his words. He nearly blew his top. And not over the loss. That’s next.”

Do your research, make your observations, connect the dots, advance personal theories and compel people with statements.

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  1. December 29, 2014 at 12:09 PM

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