The Two Question Rule

Posted: Jul 21, 2011 12:01 AM

I wear many hats, from CFP, financial advisor, columnist, author, and radio talk show host. 

Every arena that I participate in has certain rules and regulations. 

In the financial world, most important is the “know your customer” rule.  In the book and short story environment, it’s to have a solid beginning, an interesting middle, and a dynamic ending. 

As a columnist, the #1 rule is to keep it interesting. 

Probably the most important rule in broadcasting comes into play when interviewing a politician.  It’s called the two-question rule.  This rule is never written but is most definitely understood. 

It makes no difference if you’re hosting “Meet the Press,” or “Meet the Local Alderman,” the two-question rule is always in force.  Should you not abide by this rule, you can rest assured that the guest you are querying will not return, and more than likely, your broadcasting career will be short lived. 

Here’s how it works. 

First, you’re allowed to ask the politician any question.  Of course, they will probably give you an answer to a totally different question.  You then try for a second time to ask the same question repeated a different way. 

He or she then gives a repeat of their first answer, with a little more emphasis. 

Frustrated, you try a third time, since the expected response is more than likely just a yes or no answer.  However, remembering the two-question rule, you bite your lip, and move on for more scintillating Q & A. 

The interview might go something like this: 

“Senator, it would appear that the Gang of Six’s proposal has no specifics, in essence, no meat on the bone.  Do you agree?” 

The reply: “Thank you for asking that question.  Bipartisanship is always difficult, and mathematics is sometimes even more difficult, but through a great deal of effort, we have grasped the true calculation of inflation.  God bless America.”

“Yes, Senator, but many have said your Gang of Six (or is it Seven) proposal has no meat, and is simply smoke and mirrors.  Do you agree?” 

The reply: “I really relish the opportunity to answer your questions, and to appear in front of the American people.  I did well in mathematics in high school, and have grasped the concept of a difficult calculation for inflation.  God bless America.” 

“Thank you, Senator, (biting your lip), let’s press on.”

Even simple yes or no questions fall into the two-question rule.  As we get closer to the August 2nd debt ceiling deadline, the two-question rule will be challenged more and more. 

Don’t get frustrated; accept it for what it is. 

It’s just political face time.  
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