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How the five Ws and the H could have saved Diane Abbott

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One of the keys to successful Media Interviews is basic training in preparing for difficult questions. Journalists who have received even basic training know that the key to writing good copy is to include the 5 Ws and H – the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How? It is the same for Press Releases – which are intended to be written in the style of editorial copy, so they are more likely to get picked up and used.

The “How” question usually takes two forms – either “How many” in terms of numbers – so in Diane Abbott’s case, how many new Police Officers she planned to recruit, to which she did know the answer and the “How much” (will it cost), to which she didn’t. This is not Rocket Science. It is basic training for handling successful Media Interviews.

As trainee journalists, we were taught that all “stories” are essentially the same – or at least follow the same formula. The formula is dictated by six key facts – the 5 Ws and H. In fact it goes all the way back to Rudyard Kipling (not the most fashionable poet in some quarters), but someone nearly everyone has either heard of or read at some point in their lives – (“Jungle Book”, “If”).

The 5 Ws and the H actually come from a poem called “The Elephant’s Child” and Kipling refers to them as his “walking soldiers” since he was educated in England (having been born in India) at a school which prepared children for a career in the British Army.

“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”

From The Elephant’s Child – by Rudyard Kipling

Whatever your opinion of Nick Ferrari as a presenter on LBC, it was a fair question to ask – “How much?” Not difficult, not hard and completely predictable.

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