The interview set-up, which can be anywhere (in someone's home, on a stage, in the centre of a crowd) needs to be a coccoon where you first set the mood by some light but focused conversation.
Sometimes you may just need to make the guest laugh. Breathing is always good.
These days unless I'm at festivals or special events, it's rare for me to have an audience during my interviews.
On One Plus One the cameras are automated so there's actually no-one else in the studio except for the guest and me, atlhough there are people in a control-room nearby. This is about as intimate a setting as you can get.
I have a few minutes to break the ice. I do this by chatting about the guest's new work or clearing up any missing holes in the research: What happened in those years when...Did you stop being a sex-worker? How would you feel if we spoke about the time when....
That's all. I try to keep it light. I look at people to try to read their mood. Sometimes they'll tell me things like, "I'm really jet-lagged. I got off the plane from LA last night." Every now and then a guest tells me they find these sorts of interviews challenging.
I hope I manage to change that by the end.
And then as soon as the director informs that we are recording, I begin like a toboggan setting off down a snow-covered hill, peeling away the layers at a pace which seems comfortable and achievable for the guest.
This is the most frequently-asked FAQ. The answer is ... our editorial team chooses the guests.
FB follower, Alec Valcanis, adds: "is it by availability or by invite?"
It's by invitation, Alec. In a calender year we record approximately 45 interviews. When we record depends on the guest's availability and my research schedule (I'll talk about research in a separate post). The editorial team also decides the appropriate transmission dates.
Here's where we find potential guests:
I see an advert on the back of a disappearing bus.
Through news and feature articles.
Recommendations from colleagues.
Recommendations from guests.
Schedules of upcoming shows, books, conferences, events, speeches, festivals.
People write and offer themselves as interviewees.
Viewers offer suggestions via FB, Twitter and email.
Professional publicists representing authors, performers, academics, lawyers, and scientists (as a sample) pitch people or ideas to us.
Does everyone you approach say 'yes'?
Occassionally it's a no. We move on.
What do you base your decision on?
It boils down to two questions:
* Why is the audience likely to be interested in this person?
* Is the guest likely to deliver a fascinating, half-hour conversation on camera?
This was quite a long question, but it's worth seeing it in full:
So my question is about your professional experience as a woman: do you find that it has been different for you as a woman than if you were a man? Have you found that you've had to work harder to "prove" yourself, or faced more obstacles? Have you experienced sexism, and if so, how did you manage to overcome it?
I’ve been fortunate that when my career started in the 1980’s, there were no barriers to a woman being a general reporter, a business journalist, a TV newsreader. I remember my first TV newsreading job in Hong Kong, the male presenter had been an English teacher at my high school and there was a 40 year age difference between us!
The first time we worked together, I walked onto the news set and said, “Hi Mr Clark!” He replied, “call me Leslie now, Jane.”
In one job interview, I was made to sit on a (high) barstool while the news director sat in a regular chair (so he was looking up at me). He apologised and explained that there was nowhere else to sit, and there certainly wasn’t in that room, so I took the bar stool as he suggested.
I got the job, but then the director insisted we go out for dinner so we could talk more about the role. This was annoying as I was visiting family at the time and wanted to spend time with them, but it gave me an excuse to leave the job-explaining dinner early. Nothing happened, but really, did I have to go through that? I badly wanted that job so I didn't dare say no.
Fast forward to 2018 and there is always a bit of casual sexism around, but my workplace is probably less sexist than society. To the question, have I had to work harder to prove myself or have I faced more obstacles in my career because I’m a woman, the answer would be, not that I’m aware of.
Here’s what I know now:
I’ve always been poor at asking for pay increases. I’ve also realised, probably too late, that I should have been much more forward about asking for jobs/projects that I wanted. In my early days at the ABC one of the senior managers told that I was an investment. I really clung to that lovely thought. I just expected (naively) that if I was the right person for the job, I would get it.
I now realise that I should have been much more proactive.
Be as proactive as possible.
If you don’t enjoy your work, move on.
If you want a role or project, speak up. Continue to speak up for the job you want.
If you don’t have the skills, get them. Don’t be limited by barriers you imagine are there.
Ask for feedback. Act on it, don’t take it personally.
Find mentors, at every stage of your career.
Take as many professional development courses as you can.
Is he chatting to the boss again? Don’t underestimate what your male colleague asks for.
Don't let you fear of sexism hold you back. There are better boundaries and processes to guard against this now than there ever have been. There is help out there.
Great question! As in news, we aim for fairness, balance and accuracy in producing an interview show.
We are quite organic: we record each interview for approximately 30 minutes and edit it to fit a 28 minute program slot, which is usually 26 minutes of interview. We may shorten answers because of time constraints or where the answer slows down the flow of the interview.
If we detect something that's potentially defamatory we consult the legal team. Hopefully, if there's an issue that isn't factual, I question that during the recording. But, whether someone is honest is a tricky one because our interviews rely on the memory, recollection and also the point of view of a guest.
Sometimes I may not agree with a guest's opinion, but it doesn't mean the opinion shouldn't be heard.
In a recent interview, author Blanche D'Alpuget discussed her essay On Lust where she described being molested at age twelve, by a judge (now deceased) who was in his fifties. She refused to see this as sexual abuse or to see herself as a victim.
This is from the program transcript:
Some viewers didn't like that. They felt I should have challenged Blanche further (the exchange continued but I didn't hammer into her point about whether the relationship was sexual abuse or not).
I found what she said confronting, but I also accepted the point of view that she didn't regard herself as a victim. I don't think you can change someone's mind by bagdering them. In fact, I wanted to understand the fear of her powerful and terrifying father.
I hope this answers your question. There will be FAQ's relating to this one coming up.
When I first started One Plus One in July 2010, I wondered why people would want to subject themselves to some quite personal questions. But you see, I really wanted to know the answers! I found the more I challenged myself with braver questions, the more generous the guest’s response.
I’ve said it before but it was veteran Channel Nine journalist Peter Harvey who I credit with first giving me ‘permission’ to ask deeper questions about his mortality. Peter died of pancreatic cancer in 2013. During our interview, he would finish a sentence, just before he finished a thought so that I would have to follow up with another question.
I regard this as a gift he gave me. And since that time, I've been given it over and over again.
Some things that delight me about interviewing:
having my research challenged or improved
when the guest reveals a surprising nugget of information
unexpected emotion (me and/or the guest)
forgetting I am recording an interview in a TV studio
What frustrates me?
I can get tongue-tied. I don’t have the gift of the gab.
After hundreds of interviews, I can’t predict what the audience will or won’t like
I’d like more (constructive) professional feedback
Many guests have had a poor start in life. This saddens me.
What motivates me?
Discovering amazing people who have never been interviewed
Finding and sharing human vulnerability
Constanly learning about different pathways people use in their lives
My decade as a foreign correspondent was the greatest gift of education I will ever receive. On last count, I think I’ve reported from more than twenty countries, excluding Australia.
When working for shows like Foreign Correspondent I often spent a day or two with the people I was reporting on. This gave me an insight into incredible lives so different from my own. I glimpsed life in a Palestinian refugee camp, what is was like to be the family of a young Israeli soldier killed in conflict, what it was like to live in a cave in the centre of China.
Being receptive to other points of view makes you less judgemental and helps you see the different sides to a story.
Reporting from Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 was a defining experience. I am not a particularly brave person. In those first few months I saw a lot of death. People even came up to me on the street to show me photographs of dead relatives (and I don’t mean when they were alive). I realised that many Iraqis were so traumatised, dead bodies were no longer shocking to them. I didn't enjoy being in war zones, but they teach you about the basics of what matters, of what humanity is.
As a child growing up in Hong Kong where my Dad was a newspaper editor, I awaited the arrival of the daily news under the front door.
The headlines fascinated me and I saw that bad stuff happens, no matter who you are.
We knew people who died when an apartment building near ours collapsed in heavy rain. Refugees fleeing China were attacked by sharks while swimming to freedom, the squatter huts (inhabited by poor people because there wasn’t enough housing) frequently went up in flames. A policeman lost his hand while detonating a bomb.
So in short, the greatest lessons have come from travelling widely and being curious.