Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

I Can Relate …

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This is a quickie. I am reminded again why an interviewer should never insert themselves personally into an interview, either because you end up generating something unintentional or being unintentionally complicit in something.

It’s very easy to do. You want to be cordial, even accommodating to help the conversation move forward. So you commiserate, you affirm … and the moment you do, you potentially put your foot in a bear trap. That’s why, as I mentioned in this post from many years ago, questions focused on the interviewee and answers from only the interviewee are the safest route for the journalist. Even sharing a laugh can be fraught.

I’ve had dozens of political candidates tell me, over nearly a decade of talking with them, that I don’t judge them, that I make them feel comfortable, that I ask good questions. But none of that means I make a habit of saying things like, “I know how you feel” because even if I do, I keep it to myself because, one, it’s not about me and two, that is the first step into a minefield.

By leaving yourself out of most inclinations to identify with whatever the guest is talking about, you don’t find your feet tangled in the reeds at the bottom of whatever swamp later inconsistencies in their story trap you in. You don’t want to be, in any way responsible for or implicated in some dialogue related mess later because you went somewhere you had no business going, not matter how well intentioned.

Clear, clean questions keep separations between them and you sharp, and that’s safest for your both.

Written by Interviewer

April 22, 2022 at 05:47

Posted in Scratchpad

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