Hindsight softens the interview

Tim Beighton

Tim Beighton

What is a difficult interview? Hard questions from the journalist and lack of preparedness by the interviewee can lead to embarrassment for the affected party and loss of entertainment for the viewer.

Nigeria’s politicians rarely have a difficult interview; perhaps because they rarely face the media, or it could be that the media is rarely willing to go the hard route to get at the answers below the surface. One often notices a feeling of respect for the interviewee’s position, which could be said to curtail some of the more piercing, harder questions that can be asked.

This respect is something that can be thrown out of the window in environments like the UK. Politicians can be as slippery as fish, well practiced at turning answers around to talk about something totally different. They often believe they are controlling the message, yet often come across as evasive.

Many interviewers allow this, some fight against it.

Perhaps the most famous fighter is the BBC2 NewsNight anchorman, Jeremy Paxman, who once asked a politician the same question 17 times.

While his critics claim that Paxman is arrogant, he is also held up as a solid no-nonsense journalist cutting through the political ‘spin’. Others just find the bear baiting wholly entertaining. Like Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

So how should you deal with an Interview?

Prepare thoroughly. Do your background on the interviewer: look at their previous work, study and understand how sharp they are. Try and get agreement prior to the slot on what will be discussed; and go the extra mile in trying to get the questions made known to you beforehand. This doesn’t always work with hard-nosed journalists, but it is worth trying.

Try to keep the focus of the interview on message, but not like the student here who point blank refuses to event attempt an answer.

On the whole, preparedness means to be quick witted and sharp; control the message and the interviewer.

Paxman is an extreme case and this type is not so prevalent in Nigeria. Perhaps we are fortunate here, perhaps not.

I’ll leave you with a link that studies one recent interview by Paxman and gives suggestions by well honed flacks as to what should have been said for each question.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.



2 Responses to “Hindsight softens the interview”

  1. A very insightful piece this is. May I also add that political interviews in this part of the world are mostly incomplete without the interviewer performing the customary head-bobbing ritual, by which he appears to be saying, “I understand you, Sir, and I totally agree with you!”

    • fritfly Says:

      that would be right sage.tosyn: interviewers in this country are often worried about where their paycheck is coming from, and have been brought u to be deferential to those in power

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