One of the questions I get asked a lot, even more than “how did your nose get bigger than your house?” is whether I find it difficult to keep my own opinions out of any interviews I’m conducting. It’s an outrageous question of course. Me? Opinionated?
The answer is that a successful interviewer (which I hope to be one day) will have difficulty keeping their own views under wraps but you will never know which are their opinions and which are simply questions designed to counter an argument. Sometimes in playing Devil’s advocate, there’s a liitle bit of the devil in the interviewer too.
Getting paid just to talk to people or argue with them is right up there with making ice cream, filling chocolate fountains or dressing Elle McPherson at a fashion show. I’d do it for nothing.
As an interviewer, our task is to get information to help listeners or viewers understand a subject better, and often it means getting people to open up by saying ridiculous things or deliberately taking a stance opposite to their own. But no one actually knows if the presenter really believes what he’s saying or is just speaking for effect.
There are exceptions, and this came home to me yesterday when I was talking live on air with listeners about a UKIP councillor from Henley who says that the recent flooding in the UK is God’s revenge for the UK Government approving gay marriage. I would suggest here that, for once, there’s no need for an interviewer to take a middle line. It’s bonkers. Mad. As daft as defending someone who says that he has fairies at the bottom of his garden, or that parking wardens are really aliens who have a fetish for awful clothes.
We were inundated with tweets and texts yesterday, almost exclusively saying that the man was silly or mad, and of course even very religious listeners were unwilling to offer him support. Most said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it was an arrogance to assume that because you live in Henley on Thames you can assume the position of God’s spokesperson and interpret his actions for Him. I guess if you lived in Windsor it might be different.
But the best text, my absolute favourite, didn’t come from an angry listener or even a sympathetic one. It came from someone with a sense of humour. A gay couple texted in to the show and I was happy to read their message out on air. They said “Of course it wasn’t the gay community that caused the floods. We would have put a nice rainbow over it.”
And that seems to me to be the best way to handle these things. Not with anger but with humour.
Next time you hear someone on air, and you’re trying to work out whether the interviewer secretly agrees with that guest who wants to send all immigrants in to space,or thinks that Haribo sweets are the work of the Devil, just remember you may be wrong when you reach your conclusion. He’s only trying to do his job.
Just one exception though. If you ever hear me ask if those sour sweets from Haribo are made by Satan, that’s really me and my prejudices speaking. Yuk!