Thursday, February 7, 2008

How not to conduct an interview, and how to conduct an interview, both within the same interview

I wish that Johnny Carson were alive, and were covering politics.

The one strength that Johnny Carson had, especially when he had tne non-celebrities on his show, is that he would actually interact with the interviewee. This requires that you listen to the interviewee, rather than yourself.

Unfortunately, many of today's political interviews take one of two tacks:

  • Stick the microphone in the person's face and let the interviewee spout off the approved talking points. ("Senator McCain understands how military decisions must be made.")

  • Stick the microphone in the person's face, but stick your mouth closer and follow your agenda to shut the interviewee down.
Baratunde provides an example of the second tactic - a tactic that was frustrated by the interviewee.

The video shows an interview by a man named Mike who was obviously looking for a stupid Obama supporter who had merely memorized the sound bites. Derrick, however, wouldn't play along.

Notice how the belligerent tone of the interview changes after about a couple of minutes, and the interview actually ends up becoming a discussion.

But note the difference when this same interviewer interviews some Hillary supporters:

It took the interviewer a couple of tries to find someone who could speak in depth on the issues.

For what it's worth, thelatestcontroversy tended to let the camera run rather than just assembling 30 second sound clips. Imagine if he hadn't, and if he only publicized short snippets of the second video to make the claim that Clinton supporters are boobs.

I'm not necessarily talking about Obama or Clinton supporters here, and am certainly not claiming that Obama supporters are intelligent and Clinton supporters are robots. (Although I sometimes wonder how many Ron Paul supporters realize that you can kiss Federally-funded freeway expansion goodbye under a Paul administration.)

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