How Journalists Ask Questions and How It Applies to Podcasting
- Greg Levinsky
In this episode, I talk with freelance journalist and content marketer, Greg Levinsky. Greg talks about how to tell a story with your content. He discusses the difference between a good question and a weak question. He also shares how we can learn to ask good questions and prepare for interviews.
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How Journalists Ask Questions and How It Applies to Podcasting - Greg Levinsky
Eric Rutherford: [00:00:00] It is time for Build that podcast where we will discuss how you can use a podcast to grow your business and expand your influence. I'm your host Eric Rutherford, and I'm excited today because I have with me Greg Lavinsky. He is a freelance journalist up in the Maine and Massachusetts area here in the us.
He's a content marketer and and I had the chance to work with Greg for a while at a previous company. And just really appreciated his writing style. Just really enjoyed working with him. So, Greg, welcome to the show.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm happy to be.
Eric Rutherford: It is my pleasure. Now, you've been a journalist both full-time and freelance. You've been a freelance journalist now for the last few years.
What, what was sort of a motivating factor for studying journalism and pursuing being a journalist?
Greg Levinsky: Yeah, so the story is definitely pretty clear. When I was growing up, my dad did some freelance writing for some of [00:01:00] the local papers and everyone's. In a while we get to go down to Boston. So I live in Portland, Maines two hours from Boston. And you know, like you get to go to the Red Sox or the Celtics or whatever and write a story usually with a main kind of angle.
So, you know, there's a coach from Maine or player from Maine or whatever. And I thought it was pretty cool. And I never, you know, it was always kinda in the back of my mind that that was cool. And then my senior year of high school in the fall of 2016, My dad was freelancing for one of the local papers and they asked him if he could cover some high school football games, and he had a previous commitment for Friday night, so he couldn't do it.
But he kind of encouraged slash like voluntold. I know that's a, a word that we're familiar with me to do it. I was a good student and I liked sports, so I did that at the Journal Tribune, which is no longer exists in York County, Maine. But it was awesome. I remember the first game I covered was, you know, high school football and some basketball and stuff like that, and I just kind of thought, wow, this could be a career.
You know, very wide-eyed and kind of unaware of the, how journalism really works sometimes. But yeah, that's kind of the, the start of it was just sort of being volunteered to [00:02:00] do it. And I thought it was super cool. I mean, at the time I knew a lot of the, I was in high school, so obviously I knew a lot of the players on, on teams from around the state.
And they thought it was really cool that I was doing it and I thought it was really cool that I was covering their games and stuff like that. And it kind of all just built off of that experience.
Eric Rutherford: I love that. And so it sounds like it took off you, you found your, your niche. It just, it, it, it just felt right.
And so what fields do you report on? On Is it, is it sports? Is it specific sports? Is it other stuff? Where do you.
Greg Levinsky: So I mean, I have experience doing kind of every sport. I also did a year, so my only full-time experience as a reporter kind of weirdly is not in sports. It was at the Morning Sentinel kind journal, kind of main day media in Central Maine covering news. And that was mostly during like the height of the pandemic.
So it's kind of weird that I always sort of envisioned myself being a sports reporter and I've never actually done it full-time. I don't know if I ever will, honestly. But at this point, like this moment in time, I do a lot of, I do a, a twice a month. Human interest kind of sports feature for the Portland, Phoenix, which is our local [00:03:00] all weekly.
And I kind of do that on a variety of things and it's really not like Sports Xs and O's, it's finding the interesting story about, you know, this local high school. I mean, for example, one coming up tomorrow or later this week is like a local high school wrestler who's deaf and how he became, you know, a wrestler and how he was able to kind of do that.
Or I did one recently on a girl who plays soccer at a college, small college here, who like launched her own clothing line and wants to kind of have a clothing design sort of thing. So a lot of, it's not really, it's, it, it's kind. it's backbone by sports, but it's not like, you know, why are the Celtics not trade, whatever.
And that's my favorite for sure. And then this winter I've been very busy with some local high school basketball stuff. There's just really cool. It started as a social media outlet that was started during Covid by this guy who lives in Central May named Tom Barr. It's called Big Time Hoops Maine.
And it has like 18,000 followers on Instagram. So when I was kind of looking for stuff to do this winter, . He and I have been chatting for a [00:04:00] while about maybe some potential opportunities for me with, to kind of, you know, have it be mutually beneficial. I'm by no means famous, but I think in this small pond, I'm a fairly large fish, if you will, just because there aren't very many people who report on sports in a small state.
And there aren't very many who are like kind of younger and are in touch with the kids. So basically him. Myself and my good friend Taylor Mannox, who hosts the midday sports radio show five days a week here in Portland. Decided to do a high school basketball podcast that we do once a week.
So I'll be recording that later today actually. And it's done really well. We've have. Well over a thousand listeners for episode for main high school basketball. We have sponsors, so it's pretty cool. And so I do that. I've been writing some like long fe longer feature stories for him. It's kind of been a lot of stuff that I do.
And, and I'm a really, I'm a really big fan of covering basketball for a few reasons. The first reason's kind of funny is that it's climate controlled and that the games last a certain, and the games are usually like, you know, you [00:05:00] kind of know how long they're gonna. . I've covered a lot of high school sports, football games, soccer games, and early spring lacrosse and baseball where it's, you know, 32 degrees and rainy and crappy out.
That's no. And the other reason I love basketball is I think that basketball is one of the most, if not the most inclusive sport of people from all backgrounds. That you can find people from all countries, you know people from all sort of socioeconomic backgrounds demographics and stuff like that.
So I love basketball the most to cover for, for two very different reasons. You know, one for convenience sake, but more importantly for the storytelling sake. I think basketball has by far the best stories. And that's why I really like it. So, I love basketball season, you know, it's like a, every year since I started college, I've been very involved in something.
I worked at the Boston Globe my sophomore, junior, senior year of college, and then sort of a little bit last year too, covering mostly college basketball. But I was up here, so I decided. Not do that this year just because you know, I, when I, when I do something, I wanna be like 10 toes in and if I'm not gonna be at the games in person, I didn't feel I was gonna be doing the best job.
So I'm really proud that, like, one of my best friends from college who's a [00:06:00] couple years younger than me, still in Boston's doing it. So it's pretty cool. But yeah, I mean, I, I love basketball, but I do any sports. I just like kind of, I don't like Xs and os I'll never try to fancy myself as some you.
Savant in terms of sports, but I think that there's a lot of great stories that like transcend sports, but start in sports and that's kind of my favorite.
Eric Rutherford: I love that. And so, man, just a whole lot. We. There first was that at first, just as a side note, I totally get the climate control thing. I respect that. You know, down, so we're, I'm in Tennessee, so we're, we're, we're in the south, but it's not like Texas. But it's still like summers. Unpleasant. So I totally get the, the winter sport thing.
Let's just be inside when we're in May totally get that as a, as as a reason. . But it sounds like too, you are, you're writing a bunch of d you're, you're looking at stories as a story. It's not simply. It's not facts, it's not figures, it's not stats. I mean, some of those are included, but it sounds like some of your [00:07:00] favorites are really some of the human interests where you're, you really have this narrative going on.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah. I just like to humanize people. I think that that's really important and the, one of the reasons I, I've had opp really great opportunities to cover pro sports and college sports throughout when I was in college and, and after some of which I've taken my, taken up on in a freelance basis, none of which I've taken up as a full-time job.
Because I think for me, I love doing high school and small college sports because. you can get really, you can for a few reasons. You can get raw emotions much differently. Your access is extremely great and people appreciate it. We've been doing these twice a month. These, for that big time hoops thing we've been doing these cover stories and we've had some really fun opportunities where I had some extra time in November and a really awesome young man named Brady King, who is a college student and was home on break.
We did kind of photo shoots for a lot of these. So, you know, my favorite one published about a week ago. We went out to, there's a school called Old Orchard Beach and they have two really good seniors, basketball players. So we brought 'em to the beach in their uniform, [00:08:00] took photos. It was awesome. And I wrote this really long story about, you know, like how not super long, like 1200 words or whatever feature story about how, you know, how close they are friends.
And third grade they've had like, you know, the same exact career arc starters since their freshman year, both to scored their thousandth point and the mother emailed, you know, or sent this really nice. Message to me being like, you know, just thank you, whatever. And then yesterday when the boys scores thousandth point, the girl messaged me and was like, you were right.
Like, we're always in lockstep or whatever. And you know, if you did that same story on, you know, two titans wide receivers or whatever, then I'm even gonna read it. They don't care. They don't want you around. You know, and I think it's great that athletes and famous people have their own way to speak and they don't need the media to speak for them or, or speak on their behalf.
But they're still a great opportunity for the storytelling at a lower level of sports. And it means more people, and like, you know, this, these kids will never probably get an article written about them again. [00:09:00] Or maybe they do, maybe they get quoted after a championship game and, but they're, you know, once they go to college, they probably won't get anything or any attention.
And, you know, I think. It's a really valuable opportunity for me to do that. And I also think it's good for the kids because they get some attention, some support, and also some practice in terms of public speaking interviews and stuff like that. So I really love it and I think that, well, I don't know if I'll ever do it full-time, just because of the realities of, you know, people don't wanna pay for news and certainly don't wanna pay for news about high school sports.
But I think. I would probably do it on at least, you know, as a, I like to say it's a, a hobby that I get paid not well for, but it's okay cause it's a hobby. And it's a hobby. I just happen to be professionally trained at. So, you know, maybe someday if there's some opportunity that comes down the road I would definitely pursue it.
But I'm one who likes to live in reality too, so, we'll,
Eric Rutherford: Now, and I love the fact you're, you're serving a community. [00:10:00] You're, you've got a, a niche that you're focused on you're building. Skills, even if you know it's not, not great paid hobby, you're still building some, some amazing skills doing that
Greg Levinsky: Yeah. And they're directly translatable to like my real job. Right? I think that's the biggest thing about this is that they're not mutually exclusive. Like these things overlap in so many ways. The writing, the communication, the interviewing and I think what. Has made me a marketable candidate since leaving journalism full-time.
Is that sort of journalistic approach to in-house marketing content and I think that I'm very. Prideful and maybe almost in some ways a little bit stubborn about trying to wanna do things with the journalist's side, because I think that I'm a little bit of a, you know, you become a little bit of a cynic or a little bit of a skeptic but I think that makes the most authentic storytelling, whether it's from a brand's perspective or from, you know, a very down and narrow news perspective.
I think that. The skills are mutually beneficial. And it's important to [00:11:00] note that, like I didn't, when I was in college, I always was like, oh, I'm gonna be a reporter and that I'm gonna make no money, and then at age 30 I'm gonna, you know, go figure something out and whatever. And then Covid changed things and I ended up, you know, obviously getting a kind of a corporate marketing job at 23. That had a good amount of responsibility, I would think for, for my age. I mean, you know, I worked with you there and like, I don't know, I think that I didn't really realize the skills I was gaining in journalism were a valuable and b. , especially translatable to other areas.
So I mean, I think that's a big lesson and takeaway for me. And I think that you always hear, I graduated college in 2020, so three years ago or two and a half years ago, or whatever, and you always hear that People say, oh, well I don't do what I studied in college, and I never thought I'd be one of those people.
And I am to an extent, but I'm really not because I'm doing the same type of work. It's just for a different sort of outlet or a different sort of, you know, voice.
Eric Rutherford: Yeah. And it, it, it is translatable in so [00:12:00] many ways and I don't think, I don't think I appreciated that. I do, I do now within marketing, cuz it is, it's storytelling. You, you create a narrative arc. You're, you're trying to. To, to tell the story about people and you, you really need to think from the audience perspective, what are they hearing, what are they sensing?
And it's, it's, it's huge. I do want to jump back real quick because you said you guys do a, like a weekly high school basketball podcast. What's the name of that? Let's, let's
Greg Levinsky: so it's called the Starting five podcast. . And basically what we do is Taylor and I we have five big topics every week, so like our starting five. And then we touch on like, you know, players of the week, you know, big performances, games to watch, stuff like that. And the coaches and parents love it.
The players, you know, the players definitely listen when they know they're in it. I don't know how much the kids really listen to it, but it's, it's, it definitely fits a void. Because we have some, you know, we have, there's some traditional media here that cover, you know, games and stuff like that.
And our whole thing is kind of [00:13:00] going a little bit kind of, I like to z you know, zag one people's zig or whatever you wanna, you know, whatever, however, whatever cliche you want to use to describe what that means. That's kind of my thing. I like to write about stuff that people maybe won't think about first.
And sometimes I see that people will write about it very quickly after , and that means that I did it right.
It happened yesterday. I saw an article that was, I don't wanna like say what it was, but you know, there was an article that I had written kind of similarly about, not the same subject, but like a friend of the same subject who did the same thing like eight months ago and now, like it was just coming out today.
I'm like, wow. And I'm not full time reporter,
I'm definitely competitive.
Eric Rutherford: But, but even with the, with the podcast, right? You're, you're going with non-traditional media. You're trying to reach an audience which may not read your writing, other writing, but they're gonna listen to a [00:14:00] podcast.
Greg Levinsky: exactly.
Eric Rutherford: And so you're, you're able to, to take content and expand it to places it might not normally.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah. I do have to give though a lot, like we've been very successful and I think that Taylor and I have done a good job, but I do have to give a lot of credit to Tom who started that outlet because he basically gave us a platform that already had across different social medias, almost 30,000 followers.
You know, I mean, it could have been the same people. One person on Facebook, one first went on Twitter, whatever, but like. , we, we, Taylor and I were given a leg up than if we just started our own thing on no platform. So we had a platform that was given to us and built like spoonfed and all we had to do was execute.
So credit to him for building that platform because that made us take off. And if we were doing the same thing and had no, and that wasn't like shared on that platform every day. And he makes these graphics and stuff and. It wouldn't, I don't, we would not get a thousand listeners a podcast. There's no way.
Like people, you know, I mean sure Taylor's pretty well known in the community cuz he is a radio host [00:15:00] every day. And I, I think I'm decently well known in the community for sports stuff. But you know, the people who mains. People don't realize how big of a state Maine is geographically, like compared to the Russian, new England.
The people who live 350 miles away in the Roosted County, they would never find our podcast. It wasn't for big time hoops. And we, and I have, I take zero credit in building that brand. I, I did nothing, you know, now, now I'm sure I'm complimenting it, I guess, but like, you know, , nothing to do with me. We, we were given it, we. you're given a golden opportunity that we, capital we had to capitalize on it, right? Like we had to do it, we had to capitalize on it. And we have, and we've gotten sponsors, which backs up the fact that we capitalize on it, but we were definitely given a really good launching point.
Eric Rutherford: True. But at the same time, like I, I like how you said you've, you've complimented what was already there, but you did build, because I'm seeing some platforms that have tried to launch podcasts and they fall flat. and, and some things [00:16:00] don't translate from one medium to another. So so yeah, it sounds like there was work already in place, but it sounds like you guys have, have, have used that and built on top of it, which is, which is no mean feat.
That's really exciting.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah, no, it's been really cool. I, I've been, I'm more surprised when this doesn't happen that often, but maybe like once an episode somebody will like, reach out or tweet at me or whatever, Taylor, and be like, oh, look, you know, it's usually with a mistake, which is fine. I'm happy to be corrected because like, we don't do this full-time.
We can't monitor basketball on a. Massively. You know, it's a massively geographic state. Like, I don't, there's no news outlets up there, like, I'm sorry. Like we can't, you know, we're not gonna get everything. So like, we, like, we like to hear if we pronounce the kid's name wrong, we try our best. You know, we try to reach out, but if we don't hear back, it's what it is.
But I'm amazed how many people listen. I'm like, wow, this person actually like ticked that out. That's crazy.
Eric Rutherford: It's like, yeah. It's like I've suddenly, it's, whoa. People are listening. We're getting feedback [00:17:00] and that's, that's exciting.
Greg Levinsky: It is for sure, and it's, it's, it's really cool that people have actually like listened. I'm very surprised. I'll honestly surprised that we get as many people to listen to it as we do just because, I mean, like, you know, when I was writing for the newspaper or whatever, if we got a thousand clicks on an article, that was a big deal and that was an established outlet with like subscribers and not just like very niche main high school basketball, which is extremely niche.
It's a very popular sport here, even though we're not like the best at it in terms of producing college players or whatever. . We, people love it. Basketball tournament's a big deal because it's so statewide. But yeah, it's been, it's been really cool that people have listened. I.
Eric Rutherford: Now it's great. And, and it is. I love the fact that it is, it is very niche focused. And then so as, so as you're thinking about whether it's a podcast, whether it's, it's writing an article as you begin reporting and discussing, do you sort of, how do you think about the story? Is it do you think of it in certain parts?
Is it formulaic? How do you, or does it depend on [00:18:00] the questions you ask?
Greg Levinsky: It depends on the situation. I mean, there are certain stories that, I mean, stories can come up to me in different ways. Like sometimes they can be spoonfed and handed right to me. Sometimes they can be uncovered by me. Sometimes they can be uncovered by someone else and like, you know, you never know.
There's so many examples of, you know, I've, there's been times where, hey, this kid's really good. I wonder if there's something interesting about them. And then you kind of dig in and ask the questions. You ask the coach maybe, hey, like, what's up with this kid? You know, is anything interesting? What, what does he do on the side?
You know, whatever. Sometimes it's, Hey, there's this really interesting kid, but they may not play much. Either one's valid, I don't care. And then in terms of like story arc or things structure, Sometimes it comes in the weirdest places. Like I'll be like driving somewhere and it'll come in my head like, oh, that's the lead of that story.
Like, shit, pull over. You know, like, gotta gotta write that down on my phone or whatever. But yeah, I mean, it's crazy. So yeah, I mean in terms of, [00:19:00] it's not formulaic because it depends on the story for sure. Yeah, I mean it's really just a case by case basis I think. I think that even though I'm 24, I mean I'm not like super old, but I'm also not 16 and that like I've done it, I have enough experience where I'm confident that each story should play out as it should be told, rather than fitting into a specific bucket.
Cuz if it fits into a specific bucket or can be templatized, then it's gonna be boring
Eric Rutherford: No, that makes sense. Yeah. And it sounds like you've got enough, you've got enough repetitions of the creative process and the publishing and everything else that you have. A feel for where you're going.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah. I think it's important too to just monitor if things are working or not, you know, using metrics. . Sometimes I'll write a great story and I'll think it's amazing and I'll see the clicks and I'll be like, wow, that sucks. Or sometimes it'll be a situation where I don't think it's that great of a story, but maybe the writing isn't the best.
But the story's so interesting to people that it gets more clicks. So [00:20:00] sometimes even though you might like something better or be more interested in something, the end of the day is you're not writing it necessarily for. , you're writing it for your audience that hopefully is going to, you know, then subscribe and obviously, which ends up with dollar signs.
So you have to kind of take the pulse of your, the people looking at your stuff. If it's, you know, truly, if it's not a hobby, if it's for your business or whatever, you have to be able to evaluate what works and then adjust if it doesn't, because the only person you know, if you're the only person that cares about something, , you're not gonna get other people to care about it.
You have to figure out what other people care about and then maybe restructure what you know to fit in that lens in a lot of ways, unless you're, you know, have a cult following, which most people don't.
Eric Rutherford: That's true. So as you're thinking about a news story or any of the. Do you have standard questions? Are they different every time? I know you [00:21:00] just kind of mentioned, you know, it's like in your mind you're like, oh, I wonder if,
Greg Levinsky: I mean, other than the basics, it's always different. I mean, obviously you need like, you know, name, age, whatever. But other than the basics, it's always different because it depends on the story, depends on how the information I already know going into talking to people. I think a lot of times something that gets lost is that people think that they can get a great story or a great interview just by like, reaching out and then doing it.
And I think that there's a lot of work that needs to go before that. You need to do some research on the people obviously, but you also should talk to people around the main subject of a story. I think that's the most obvious thing that people miss all the time is that, you know, if you're talk, if you're gonna do an article on. know, in, in the example of our, of, of when we were working together, if somebody was gonna do an article on you, right? Like, maybe somebody would call up me and be like, Hey, like, what's Eric like to work with? Call up, you know, the boss. What's, what's Eric like to work with? Call up a different coworker who did a different job than me, but also what's on the team, what's Eric like to work with?
And then [00:22:00] going into the conversation with you. Maybe you got this great anecdote, all right. For example, Remember early in our tenure, we had a project that was like very important and we had to go, go, go. It was me and you on it,
And it was like super important. Had to get it done yesterday. Thing, and I, I assume you know what I'm talking
Eric Rutherford: I, I do, yes. I remember that one vividly.
Greg Levinsky: Okay, good. So like, that's an example, right? So maybe if somebody was writing the story on you and they interviewed me, I would bring that up and maybe that would be the lead into the story on Eric. Like, you know, they were, it was, you know, whatever day it was and, you know, the, the, the, the walls are falling down and or whatever.
And not really, it wasn't that dramatic, but, you know, like, like whatever, that could be the lead into this, like telling that anecdote about, you know, how, you know, he's a great coworker because we worked together on this and we never met in real life and whatever. But we executed it really well and it did well and all that stuff.
And to ask you about, , you know, situation might be helpful [00:23:00] or to just have my quote about you in that. So I think it's important to not just, you have to like do more than just talk to the main subject. I mean, obviously if you're just gonna interview someone on a podcast like this, like, you know, it's still a bit different, but like, read about the person or whatever.
I mean, you obviously, you've experienced it and you know me, but, you know, if you was someone you never knew, you know, you wanna, I, I think it's important. You gotta, you gotta get the whole circle. You can't just like do that because I think it almost seems like you're not as interested or maybe a little bit disingenuous in some.
Eric Rutherford: I like that how you're, you're looking at outside people, you talk to other people, and I like how you made that, that bridge too between the podcast, because you can do it is a little different medium, but you still want to do research.
You still wanna see where they're at, what they're doing. What they've written, what they've said, at least to, to draw in those experiences and questions.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah. And I think too, like, I don't know, it depends on what, what the purpose is, but [00:24:00] reaching out to people ahead of something like a, like a formal interview or whatever, I think shows that you're human rather than just, I think it's funny when you get, you know, and I guess I'm kind of on the other side of this and I would never really do it this way, but as a reporter, even now, I still get these emails, even though I'm not a full-time reporter.
These PR pitches like, Talk to this woman or this guy or this person who wrote this book about something that has nothing to do with anything I ever knew about and I've just got on some email list or whatever. I never respond. And if I do, rarely, I'll say, what does this have to do with, you know, what I write about?
And then there's no response to the PR person. And I think that is a clear, just like whenever I get those, I, I usually don't even read them, even if they, maybe one has been good. 99, if not. So I think it's important not just from like the journalist's perspective or the storyteller's perspective, but from the perspective of marketing, wanting to get your story out. You can't just tell [00:25:00] your own story. You gotta get other people to tell it for you. And that's something that I know I was very passionate about working with you, and I've always been that way, and I'm gonna continue to be that way when I'm on the when on this side of the house. Is telling the story through the eyes of, in this case, the customer.
Right? Because when Greg Lavinsky, whatever, whatever my brand is, it's Greg Lavinsky jeans. When I say, oh, I'm Greg Lavinsky. Greg Lavinsky jeans are the best. No one cares, right? But like when you get LeBron James wears my jeans. I'm LeBron James and Greg Lewinsky's jeans, you know, fit me so well. And I'm six nine and I can't find jeans in the.
Not saying that they're the best, but saying how they fix his issues or solve his problems. That's the way to do it. You need real people that people, I mean, obviously people can't relate to LeBron, but people love LeBron or some regular person that you can relate to in sort of a business setting. But I think it's important to have kind of, I think they call 'em influencers, I guess technically in marketing, but it's not necessarily influenced.
It's just people.[00:26:00]
Eric Rutherford: True. And I think that's so true and I. You can, if you can have the real people, if you can hear, hear their plight and, and help them to see, you know, a solution, if you can conserve them in that capacity, it goes such a long way. And that's that's, and and it's all storytelling. It's all storytelling.
Greg Levinsky: It's funny. I don't know. I, I, I think it's interesting. all the people I went to school with, majored in journalism or whatever, like all these people had these skills and I don't think a lot of them have realized how valuable they are. I know we talked about that earlier, and it's kind of a little bit of a tangent, but I hope that, you know, the audience of this podcast are probably people who are not necessarily trained in journalism.
And I hope that they're, if they're hiring for content marketing, storytelling type roles, that if they could see a journalist's resume should be, you know, compared to. Someone who had us in their MBA and has, you know, was a marketing specialist, two and three and four or whatever. That journalism resume, I hope, I hope at [00:27:00] least, has equal weight at least.
And if not, maybe value a little bit higher. But that's just me.
Eric Rutherford: No, and and it's true because you learn how to ask questions. You learn how to write, and, and you're always, I mean, internally in any business, you're always having to do that. You ask questions, you're trying to get more feedback. You're
Greg Levinsky: about deadlines. Any corporate deadline I've had so far has nothing compared to now. Some of these sports deadlines are not like the end of the world, but it's like, you know, Boston Globe. Go to a game. It starts at six, and then your deadline's at eight and the game's end at 7 55. All right, what do you do?
You write during the game, get a couple quotes, pop it in. It's only 300 words. That's all right. That's what they want. But you know the deadline meeting thing, there's always questions though. How are you with deadlines? Well, if you work in journalism, , you're really good with deadlines. . The deadlines are not days in journalism.
They're minutes. You know, that's the thing that I think that gets lost too, is that the speed in which you can do [00:28:00] something now, maybe all right, like maybe my thing won't be as perfect as yours or whoever's, but if I can do 98% of it in a day and the person who gets the 100% takes three weeks, I personally would rather.
The 98% in the day, take 10 minutes to go over it and it's done. Versus three weeks later you get it back and it's great. But we lost two and a half weeks there. So, I don't know. And then maybe that's just me. I mean, obviously I'm gonna, I'm gonna say that because of who I am, but I think it's valid.
Eric Rutherford: I think it's a good reminder too. I think sometimes we can get stuck in that perfectionism thing and sometimes good enough it, it's good enough. It's good enough to ship. Right. That's, that's the thing.
Greg Levinsky: the way interesting too. Like if it's independent, the more you look at something over and over and over and over again, it's just you're gonna like drive yourself in circles.
Eric Rutherford: You. You will, you will. So how do you, is there a difference between a good question and a weak question when you talk to people? I mean, how do you, [00:29:00] what's the difference?
Greg Levinsky: Avoiding, yes. I mean, I'm trying to avoid a yes or no question. If you're, that's not the answer you're looking for, I think is the biggest one. And I would say this, that's the biggest thing is. avoiding the yes or no question. If you don't want, I mean, if it's a yes or no answer, then sure. Like if, you know, if you wanna say, are you five foot two or five foot four?
And they say, you know, yes, I'm five foot two. Okay, alright, whatever. But you know, if, if, if you want more than a yes or no, you gotta phrase the question differently than a yes or no. And one other thing I would say is that I don't think, I think the no bad question is saying is, is is legit, however, They may not be a bad question to a person you're asking them to, but as a question, as an asker of those questions, I think you can ask bad questions and then, and learn from that.
There's one perfect example, I think. So I've covered a lot of high school state championship games and I think that the worst question, and this is gonna sound weird, but the worst question you can ask a kid after they win the state championship is, how does this feel? [00:30:00] Because they're gonna say, great, amazing.
Ah, wonderful. What? Now find a different way to ask that question because it's sure they're gonna feel great and amazing and that's what every kid's gonna say, right? Like, find something different. Find something. Oh, like your team, whatever. You guys lost five in a row earlier in the year and now you're state champions.
You know? What are you saying to the people that doubted you after those five game losing streak? You're getting get a way better answer, right? Than just like, how does it. So that's like a good example I think of like, is it a bad question? No, it's the right question, but it's not the right way to phrase it because you're just gonna get a, it feels great.
He said, she said, they said whatever. Like, I, that's my one thing is I always, I, I always like love to read a after stage championships for like high school basketball or whatever and like the Globe or the Portland press or whatever, and like you can tell when the question was how does it feel? Because it feels great.
Eric said, period. I'm so [00:31:00] proud of our team. Period. Quotation mark every time, . So that's
Eric Rutherford: you could have answered that for them, right?
Greg Levinsky: right. And that's, you don't want, you don't want to be able to do that. You don't want to, you don't wanna foreshadow the answer in your own head because then you're not telling the story, you're telling your story, and that's not what you wanna do.
Eric Rutherford: As you're thinking about this idea of. The better way to ask a question, is that something people can learn? Is that just take practice? Does it,
Greg Levinsky: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the setting too, right? Like it takes practice for sure and kind of, I mean, it's like, I think a lot of it is if you have a question that you thought was good and you got a bad answer, but you know that they weren't trying to give you a bad answer, like, you know, they were trying to give you a good answer.
think of what the question was again, and then maybe next time ask it a different way. Obviously, you'll be in some settings, especially as a reporter, where people aren't gonna not wanna talk to you or they're not gonna wanna say stuff.
But if you're kind of, you know, a lot of this, I mean, for better or for worse, most, [00:32:00] almost everything, you know, everything I do now is like, you know positive, you know, it's like it's, you know, overcoming adversity or, or, you know, really cool accomplishment and stuff like that.
You know, I'm never out to get these people, but if their answers kind of, you know, they're not trying to give you bad answers, you're asking bad, you might be asking bad ques, like not great questions. I think that's, that's one of the lessons. It's especially hard in li in live settings where like, you know, I do the sideline report I did last year, I just signed up again this year to do the, they televise the main state championship basketball games and you do the sideline reporting and like, you know, it's after the game and win the state championship.
And it's like you're just really gonna ask how does it. Oh, you gotta find something. And I don't know. I think that it's, it's, and I definitely have reflected on those interviews for this year where like, I'm really gonna have, I think I did ask how does it feel at least twice, and I don't wanna ask that anymore.
Like, I, I had four games, I gotta find a different way. How then, how does it feel?
Eric Rutherford: Well, no, and, and it, but it's you. It's cool that you, you [00:33:00] recognize that. You see that and you're like, Ooh. I've done it. I've, as the repetitions happened, you know, Hey, I've, I've learned now I need to tweak it and I need to adjust as we.
Greg Levinsky: Exactly. No, exactly. And cause you know, a lot of times you're looking for that money quote, that great quote, the great quote's. Not usually, especially when you're dealing with people who don't speak publicly often. The great quote's not gonna come from like a. Very basic question. You, you have to get questions that are gonna get people to elaborate and talk.
So in that state championship example again, you know, maybe bring up past context or whatever. And obviously you know, you, you know, you don't wanna make a kid look bad and like have them say something that they're gonna regret saying, but you wanna make the kid be able to verbalize their emotions. And emotions usually are much more than oh.
It was, it was good. I feel. You don't, you feel like you're on top of the world. You're a 16 year old kid, you scored 30 points
in the [00:34:00] state championship game. Like you feel more than good, you know?
Eric Rutherford: Yeah. One adjective doesn't cover it. You, you gotta give me more than
Greg Levinsky: Right. Or like, you know, my dad played in this and he always told me he was never gonna, you know, I was never gonna do as well as him in this game and look at me or whatever. I dunno, there's all kinds of great stories that can happen, but you have to like look for him a little bit. You can't just expect him to fall into your, into your lab.
Eric Rutherford: But it sounds like too, it's just the stories are there, the conversations are there. So even whether it's, whether it's reporting, whether it's it's doing an interview for a podcast or other types of mediums, Part of it is, is doing some research. Part of it is trying to learn how to ask good questions, and that, that happens over time with the reps.
And then just trying to get people to elaborate and just hear from their point of view. Am I, is, am I tracking with you?
Greg Levinsky: Yeah, no, for sure. And I think, yeah, and I think it's also valuable to listen, to listen to [00:35:00] stuff like, you know, they say if you wanna be a good writer, read, if you wanna be a good interviewer, listen to interviews. I mean, I think it's all, it's all valid. And you can learn, pick different styles and whatever.
And it's funny, my friend group, because we all studied journalism, we definitely pick apart, like that Songline interview was so weird. And then like my mom or dad or my other friends who don't, journals be like, what? Who cares? Like it's fine. So, you know, I think you kind of have to almost, I think one of my things that I don't like about myself, but is also helpful in the workplaces.
Like I can't really turn it off. And like I'm always hyper analyzing everything and I think. That's sure it's good, but it's also not great. Yeah. So that's the thing I'm trying to work on myself is like being able take a step back. Cuz sometimes when you can take that step back, you do come back with fresher eyes and whatever.
And like when you have the time to do it, it's good. Like, back to the thing where I was like, oh, like being fast is so great. It's true. But there are times where it's important to take that step back. And with a journalism background, you never usually get that opportunity. . So when you have that opportunity, you can definitely do it, but you can, you have to balance it, I guess.
And [00:36:00] that's something I'm still learning is like, you know, when is it full throttle? When is it not? And when does the pro, the value outweigh the outweigh, you know, waiting versus going faster.
Eric Rutherford: It's a tough balance to try and figure out,
Greg Levinsky: Yeah.
Eric Rutherford: and I, I know as a marketer too, like my marketing brain never turns off like ever. and it's like, ugh,
It's like I never look at anything with neutral eyes, so,
Greg Levinsky: No, it's, yeah, I have a judgment about everything for better or.
Eric Rutherford: I know, me too. Me too. So, as we, as we wrap things up here, if people, listeners wanna know more about you, more about your podcast, more about where you're writing, where to follow you, where do you want 'em to?
Greg Levinsky: Yeah, so I'm pretty active on Twitter for the sports stuff, which is at Greg Lavinsky, which is my name. LinkedIn, I think I'm Gregory Lavinsky on there. Technically, I'm pretty active on there too. I don't post all of my journalism stuff on LinkedIn, but I post stuff that has more like, Would have kind of appeal, I would say to a lot of, [00:37:00] you're not a huge sports fan, but you, like, you enjoy like storytelling and stuff, but, and don't hate sports
You know, I'm not, I'm not live, I'm not live updating LinkedIn for the high school basketball games I go to. I do that on Twitter because people are interested in it, but not people on LinkedIn. Like, nobody would wanna see that. So those are the two places I would say are kind of the, the best sort of mediums for me are Twitter and.
Eric Rutherford: Cool. And then one more shout out on your podcast.
Greg Levinsky: starting five. Podcast is big time Hoops Podcast network and actually presented by Town and Country Federal Credit Union
Eric Rutherford: All right. You get, Hey there. Absolutely. If you, any, if you make it to the point where you're able to get sponsors for your podcast, that is a significant step and sh so huge shout out and kudos to the work you're doing for that. So
Greg Levinsky: We got the Gamon, it's kind of funny. We got them, we got Sela Waste Systems, we have NextGen Fitness, and then we have Law offices of Joe Bornstein. So, you know, we're very diverse in
Eric Rutherford: You have a diverse diverse sponsorship.
Greg Levinsky: [00:38:00] Yeah. Sort of
Eric Rutherford: Hey, they're, they're sponsoring. That's the main thing.
Greg Levinsky: for sure.
Eric Rutherford: Greg. Well, this has been awesome. I know. I've enjoyed it. I've learned a ton. I know I know the audience will as well. So I appreciate, I appreciate you joining me today.
Greg Levinsky: Yeah. Thank you.