Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brian's Interviewing Skills

I guess Brian Williams was absent from journalism school on the day they taught the lesson about how to conduct an interview. Brian's Friday interview with Grand Isle, Louisiana mayor David Camardelle wasn't an interview, it was--well, I'm not sure what it was. In an interview, the interviewer asks specific questions of the subject. The questions should be pointed and precise and meant to elicit specific answers that will allow the viewers to get a better understanding of the situation. Brian's "questions" were so broad that Camardelle's answers gave us little added insight into what was going on in the Gulf. At one point, Camardelle was allowed to ramble on uninterrupted for two minutes and twenty two seconds. That is inexcusable. As an interview, this deserves a D-. If Brian had ever seen an interview by Amy Goodman (on "Democracy Now"), Katty Kay or Matt Frei (on "BBC World News America") or anyone on "The PBS Newshour", he would have a good idea of what an interview should be. Those interviews are incisive and focused--unlike Brian's. This is typical of Brian's style. Don't ruffle feathers--always be Mr. Nice Guy. Appeal to the viewers' emotions instead of providing them with information. To see a prime example of Brian's interviewing skills (or lack thereof), check out his "interview" with Chrysler executive Jim Press from the 11/13/07 Nightly News (if it is still available). Brian asks Press a series of softball questions that allow him to go on and on about what a great product Chrysler is. It was as if Press wrote the questions himself (for all we know, he did). If Brian wants to conduct an interview, he should do a proper one. Giving Camardelle more than three minutes of unregulated Nightly News air time did not do any great service to the viewers.

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