Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Art of the Interview

Oprah, Larry King, Mike Wallace--bad interviewers? From an NPR story on ESPN's interview coach:

"Sawatsky's rules are simple, but he says they get broken all the time: Don't ask yes-or-no questions, keep questions short and avoid charged words, which can distract people. In his seminar, Sawatsky points to Mike Wallace of CBS' 60 Minutes and CNN's Larry King as examples to avoid. In Sawatsky's illustrative clips, King favors leading questions that generate curt answers, while Wallace's rapid patter fails to get a subject to speak candidly.

"Sawatsky says Wallace and the others are better at theatrics than journalism, and that they often trip up their own interviews -- by thinking they should be the focus of attention."

To read the rest (and hear audio clips), go here.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here, here!

5:25 PM  
Anonymous South Dallas Jones said...

As a consumer of news and news analyis shows of many stripes, I think the professor is right on target. My sense is that many of the "news personalities" believe they are the news and the focus of the story or interview. Dan Rather, Bill O'Reilly, and Leslie Stahl come to mind.

Maybe they feel the press of time since their segments have to fit whatever time formats are required. Their questions are often too long, convoluted, and disjointed. I'm also suspect regarding the editing of some of the responses to questions.

Notice also how the stars blow off suggestions/criticism?

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does Terry Gross measure up?

Why would a celeb want advice from a an egotistic interviewer? I'm fairly certain they didn't agree to the interview merely to be subjected a half hour of personalized "Dear Abby". I think it's bad form to pass judgement on and critique your subject while attempting to draw out juicy details. Of course they'll become defensive and nonresponsive! It's not only rude but also completely inefective.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Media narcissism is the norm, not the exception... especially among the members of the dinosaur media.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Mike M. said...

An interesting question is who do you think is a good interviewer. My vote is for Bill Moyers.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Baruch Grazer said...

I'm reminded of conversations I've had with professors about how to facilitate seminar discussions. I'd like to see more of Sawatsky's rules and consider their applicability.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For celebrity interviews, Howard Stern is hard to beat when it comes to getting juicy info. Many people who are annoyed by his telling stories about himself during interviews don't realize that it's a calculated ploy to get the subject to open up.

Before he was widely known, he would catch many a subject off-guard by quickly getting to a question that the subject's publicist had told him beforehand off the air not to ask. That doesn't happen much now. Still, because he does a live show, a subject who angrily walks out in response to an uncomfortable question risks having that action interpreted in the worst way.

10:21 PM  

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