My own worst interviewees

Sometimes it’s them questioning  you.

When you’re not an expert in anything particular – and in journalism, that’s often the case – half of your journalistic activity is simply about finding the good person to talk to.

Most of the time they’re nice fellows that are more than eager to guide you through their world of expertise. Alas, one other occasions you may end up hoping the whole thing will be over as soon as possible. Here’s the most awkward situations one can get into as an interviewer.

The guy that simply doesn’t want to speak face-to-face

I’ve met (well, been in touch with) academics who spent more time replying to my emails and ask for clarifications than they would have with a short phone call. At times I suspected they had a whole collection of pre-formatted replies for every scenario.

Also, cue the myriad hyperlinks to their papers, “in which I explore the issue more in depth”. Oh gee, thanks, I totally didn’t look for you on Google Scholar before writing.

Still, a written interview is better than nothing. Plus, it makes transcribing a breeze.

“Well, that’s simply not true”

That’s it. The guy doesn’t want to be pressured on that one point. He just won’t answer. I was speaking to a Plaid Cymru press officer once, regarding an allegation a former party member had made, and the only comment I got was “Well, that’s simply not true”. No matter how I tried to go around the issue, or reformulate the question, she just didn’t have anything to say.

In fairness, most of the time it’s press officers you’re dealing with. So when they say that they have nothing to say, it’s probably true.

The patronising bastard

When being a journalism student makes you a second-class journalist.

The patronising bastard comes in degrees. The worst kind is when they will simply decline to give an interview because “we don’t reply to student queries”. Thankfully, most of the time being patronising equals being accommodating, so your interviewee ends up being more informal than he would with a professional journalist.

As a student journalist, you’re supposed to be tame. That’s why some armor-piercing questions might come as unexpected. Whether that’s a pro or a con is to be seen.

The binary answer guy

“Do you enjoy having an interviewee that gives only short answers?”


See what I mean?!

Don’t lift your arse from the chair before you have something decently useful. That’s the only way to go. Or get kicked out.


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