If You’ll Behave
By Jeff Salter
If I were interviewed for television because of some writing fame or accomplishment, I’d want to steer clear of most of the so-called “interviewers” I’ve observed in recent years. Too many of them prefer to set up a confrontational – or even antagonistic – ambush than to seek insights into their subject (me) or the writing goal I’ve accomplished.
Well, I don’t want a grandstanding, preening, loudmouth shouting me down, baiting me, and otherwise running roughshod over me and my achievement.
Give me an interviewer who actually cares (or seems to care) about my accomplishment and wants to learn more about how I achieved it… and who I am. I want someone who asks intelligent questions without providing his/her anticipated answer within the phrasing of their question.
While replying to the three Foxes who have posted so far this week, I’ve revealed some of my observations about the general and unfortunate decline of journalistic standards in TV interviews — the so-called “gotcha” journalism. No need to repeat them here — just go back to my replies on the posts for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… and to whatever Tonette has in store for us tomorrow.
I’ve wracked my brain to come up with someone and the closest I can get to my ideal interviewer would be either Dick Cavett or Ted Koppel. Both would make me feel as though we were having a conversation (rather than a trial) and both would treat me respectfully. With both Cavett and Koppel, I believe they would be more in the background, prompting my responses and then thoughtfully (and perceptively) following up to my answers.
That said, I believe Cavett typically revealed much more humor while Koppel demonstrated greater gravity. But both seemed earnest and made me believe they wanted to learn something new and interesting… and thereby share it with their viewers. And that’s the way to interview — NOT focusing the session on themselves and using me as a tennis ball to smash against a wall for their own entertainment [or to see how hard they could hit me before I turn into mush].
Before our interview, I would hope they would ask me, “What would YOU like to focus on?”
After I replied, I would ask them, “And what else do you think your viewers might like to know?”
Now THAT would be a great interview.
What about YOU? Who would YOU want to interview you on TV?
[ JLS # 280 ]