Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Eavesdrop

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eaves

This was the name that was given to the person that listened in on the conversations of others without their knowledge.  As defined by Old English Law, an eavesdropper stood at the point near a house where water dripping from the roof of that house, called an eavesdrip, hit the ground.  I bring this up because interviews are often described as conversations that other people feel like they’re eavesdropping on.  Because, as the thinking goes, the most interesting conversations are the ones where the conversants don’t know they’re being listened to.  Presumably, that’s when you hear the “juciest” stuff.

I watched an interview with a celebrity recently, and although this isn’t true with all celebrities, it is more so than not that when a celebrity is hawking a movie or a book or a song, they tend to talk superficially.  They tend to recap stuff that is already public knowledge, unless it’s something that really is juicy that their lawyer or their publicist forbids them to talk about because it might affect books sales or movie attendance.  In those cases, the interview is pretty much a waste of time for all except the truest of devotees who are happy just seeing their face and hearing their voice no matter what they’re saying.

That’s not to say these celebrities don’t want to talk about their struggles.  But as an interviewer, I also get it that by the time a celebrity is on mass media or social media talking about something, they’ve probably repeated it dozens, maybe hundreds, of times.  In all probability, they’re absolutely sick of it.  So, maybe they only want to talk about their movie or book or song because their personal stuff in the public space has become an annoyance even to them. 

Plus, celebrities have to deal with people who want to be them, or hurt them or hate them, for no reason other than those people have nothing else in their lives.  So celebrities, who are essentially no different from you or me, oftentimes need to wall themselves off from most of us and any sincere revealing because they have a lot to lose, including their money, their privacy, their reputations, their legacies, and in some cases, their lives.   

For the most part, an interview is a business transaction between the outlet and the interviewer doing the interview and the celebrity and their organization providing the interview.  The newspaper, TV or radio outlet gets ratings in exchange for the celebrity that gets buyers or attendees.  But in those rare moments when a celebrity does risk sharing something true and universal about themselves, it is priceless because listeners and viewers realize that this rich, famous, beautiful person can be angry or afraid, joyful or sad, confused or withdrawn just like them.  That they’ve felt pain and loss.  And for those times when people aren’t sitting on the other side of the microphone or the TV screen smug with schadenfreude, they are grateful for the reminder that we are all human, striving, seeking love and wanting peace and joy.       

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Written by Interviewer

February 14, 2013 at 23:22

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