Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Love

You Fight for the People You Love

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gayle and oprah

This isn’t as much about interviewing as it is about the media and friendship.

Gayle King is Oprah Winfrey’s besty. And this morning, as an anchor for CBS This Morning, she defended the former Queen of Daytime TV from the hyperbole that is the news business. We all have all had times when we’ve have so much on our plate that we kinda sorta feel like, “What the hell am I doing with all this stuff on my plate?” But that doesn’t make most of us wanna sit in a corner in the fetal position, or have a screaming fit. Most of us, most times follow the popular meme; keep calm, and carry on.

But when you’re a A-plus-pluser like Oprah, people are always looking for chinks in your armor. Jealous maybe, I don’t know. I think about her fight with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association back in 1998. People are always out to get somebody like her who has done well by doing good. So in this latest iteration, somewhere, somebody started the rumor that Oprah was on the verge of, or having, or had a nervous breakdown. And you gotta wonder where this stuff comes from. Was it fact checked? It’s an old and unfortunate saying that the media likes to eat its young. And considering that Oprah Winfrey have given the world just about the best examples of personal and celebrity revelation that have ever sprung from the head of TV, you would think people on the button side of the camera would be a little better with their due diligence.

Well, whatever was going on, Gayle wasn’t having it. To paraphrase, she said the stories aren’t true and blow stuff out of proportion. And she quickly got support from co-anchor Nora O’Donnell that, yes, sometimes, it’s just an overabundance of busy that can make you feel overwhelmed, but that doesn’t have to translate into a month in the country.

I know Gayle came to Oprah’s defense for the 8 a.m. Pacific Time live airing of CBSTM, but I don’t know if she had repeated that message for the live broadcasts to Eastern, Central and Mountain timezones. I do know that I admire Ms. King for using her catbird seat near the tippy tippy top of the morning news mountain to cross the line back over to friend and be one to Oprah Winfrey. Clearly, she’s not afraid to take a swipe at the industry she currently works in. By doing that, she said what so many people in crappy jobs wish they could as clearly say – this is a job, it’s not my life. It’s not even the most important thing in my life.

If you can defend someone you love, you should and she did.

Written by Interviewer

September 23, 2013 at 23:27

“We didn’t talk about this in the pre-interview.”

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Lindsey Lohan

Interviewing, which is really just conversation, is never far from any of our lives.  “Conversing” is what we all do with each other.  It, along with body language and facial expressions, is how we decide each other to be safe or not, trustworthy or not, credible or not.

That’s why the conversation between Dave Letterman and Lindsey Lohan was such a wonderful lesson for us all.  Lots has been written about Ms. Lohan’s career.  Yes, she is young and talented.  And much has been written about her public displays.  Yes, courts have determined she needs supervision.  But neither of those was really what their conversation last night was about.

An excellent conversation is about what I call the reveal.  To cause a reveal, an interviewer has to be both skillful, like a surgeon with a scalpel, and a pummeler, like a bruiser in the ring.  Dave Letterman is a jester, but that’s not all he is.  You don’t have a late night TV interview show for more than 30 years by just being a clown.  In fact, savvy viewers know by now that the clown cleverly disguises the commando.  And when someone with the conversational skill set of David Letterman starts talking with someone who is both brilliant and apparently troubled, it’s a black ops mission under studio lights.

Essentially, he asked simple questions of Ms. Lohan; How many times have you been in rehab?  How will this time be different?  What are they rehabbing?  And on one hand, you could see she felt betrayed, at one point saying “We didn’t talk about this in the pre-interview”, as if to say, “You ambushed me.”

But on the other hand, think about it.  If you’re the handlers of Lindsey Lohan, you know very well what David Letterman is about and is capable of.  And if you’ve been dividing your time between keeping her working and keeping her out of the tabloid press, you might be looking for new ways to get her to change her behavior.

Who better to do that than Uncle Dave?  And when beautiful, big eyed Lindsey was faced with his brutal soft spoken-ness and a silent studio audience, you could see the ramifications of his questions and her answers ricocheting around in her mind like ball bearings from a Claymore Mine.  She cried.

“Now”, said Letterman, satisfied that he had cracked open her armor with his first wave of questions, asked more probing, more direct and personal questions.  “Do YOU have addiction problems?”  “Is it alcohol?”  “Do YOU drink too much?”

The job of the interviewer is to get in and get out.  David Letterman asked his questions and tied them up with a bow at the end by praising Lindsey Lohan for having the credibility to come before him.  See, everybody knew what could’ve happened, what was likely to happen, and it did.  It was no surprise to Letterman, and probably deep down, no surprise to Ms. Lohan.  But it probably was to the audience.  Her admission was a reveal to them.

But it was something for her too.  Lindsey Lohan has been on the Letterman Show five times in her career, and she’ll probably be on again.  Afterwards, she tweeted how much she enjoyed it.  Besides, look at their body language; they are mirroring each other and leaning toward each other. There seems to be mutual affection there. What Letterman has done, just like Oprah and Barbara Walters were also excellent at doing, was give somebody an opportunity to make penance.  When you think about it, it’s really a labor of love.  Interview and intervention share a common root.

Keep ’em Flying

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This isn’t about interviewing.

There are many things about the airline industry I could criticize.  But one concept upon which they’re entire business model seems to be based is the idea that they get the most of our their machines by keeping them working as much as possible.

I think the same concept applies to people.  I knew a man with Cerebral Palsey who regularly rode the same bus I did.  He wore leg braces and a back brace.  He wore very thick glasses.  He was stooped and spoke with much difficulty.  But he got on that bus every morning like clockwork.  And he never got on it without saying “Good Morning” to everybody.  He was one of the most gentle and polite men I’d ever seen.  And I realized at that moment that if that man could go about his life, few of us have any excuse to not go about our own.

You hear all the time about people who say they are a threat, or a double threat or a triple threat.  I’m speaking, of course, about people who have had the opportunity to develop the skills they have into viable careers and lifestyles.  A singer who can also arrange music, or a mechanic who is also a certified plumber.  Of course, they’ve come to know what they know with help; they didn’t do it alone.  But they can do multiple things and they do them, as best as they can and to the extent that they can because they decided to.

None of us is without the will to live, to love or to succeed.  Although we exist on the good graces of others, we still choose who we let in and who we see as too dangerous to let in.  Over time, one may become the other.  That helps us edit who we truly owe for our success versus those who want us to owe them.  And when we fix ourselves on a goal, a star, it is our obligation to do all that we can to reach it.

So, for all the people who think they can’t do it, you can try.  That whole “Trying is Dying” bullshit is just that.  The one in the arena fighting the lion is the only opinion that matters.  And you don’t know if you’ll succeed at anything because life isn’t like that.  But if you don’t make the attempt, ie, to try, you let other people define you and you become a known quantity.  The motto of the Ohio Lottery used to be (and maybe still is), “You can’t win if you don’t play.”  If you don’t play, you become someone with no surprises.  You become predictable and to some extent, disrespected.

So, play hard.  Be a surprise and a threat.  You and your dreams? – Keep ’em Flying.

Written by Interviewer

March 18, 2013 at 03:42

Service versus Promotion

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There is a thin line between them.  If you’re offering anything to anybody, you have to know that if you don’t care, then you don’t do a good job.  And if you don’t do a good job, people will know you’re faking.  They’ll know your heart isn’t in it, not because you’re not capable, but because you’ve lost your love for it or you’ve lost your love for them.  But if you ever could do it, and you can’t or won’t do it now, it’s because the love is gone.

So if you do love it, you want to do it well and that passion is what makes people want you to do whatever you’re doing for them too.  But you don’t want to be a starving artist either.  I think of Basquait, who was a genius, died young and whose work in the hands of new owners made them rich beyond the dreams of averice.  The operative word there, though, is died.

So, you decide you can’t exist just on the plane of the pristine.  You realize you have to sell yourself while you’re alive even if that feels a bit like personal betrayal.  You promote.  You hawk.  You don’t want to.  You’d rather create.  That’s why artistic people are NOTORIOUSLY terrible at managing their business.  They’d much rather do what they love.

So when they get the clue that they have to promote too, they don’t always like it, and they’re not always good at it.  They should ask somebody.  And they should keep asking and screening until they find somebody.  In the meantime, they can’t be shy about promoting their work, which is really broadcasting their passions in such a way that also allows them to feed themselves.

Don’t be shy, actors, authors, dancers, singers, musicians, scupltors, painters, writers, poets. designers, illustrators, et al.  If somebody can make a boatload of money off a thing that does nothing but spin a sucker, then your passion can give you a livelihood.

Written by Interviewer

March 14, 2013 at 23:53

“He Held My Hand.”

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I’m in the process of editing two great interviews.  One is with soul, R&B and bluesman Curtis Selgado.  The other is with the fifth grandson of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi, Arun.  In a funny way, both of these men are talking about the same kind of thing … love.  Curtis is a Portand, Oregon treasure if the community support he got for successive cancer surgeries is any indication.  We talk for a good long while about fame and strangers and a gesture from BB King that just blew him away.

Arun Gandhi told 1100 children recently that the best way to overcome the problems in the world is to try really hard to not think of yourselves too much.  The adult translation; crush your ego.  We talked about the work he has been doing in the spirit of his uber-notable grandfather from the time he was a boy in South Africa.  He continues that work today and I am honored to have had the time I had with him.

Both of these interviews will be up shortly.  Thanks for listening.

Written by Interviewer

March 2, 2013 at 02:38