The Art of Interviewing

On a typical January evening earlier this year (2015), the members of the Leamington Literary Society were warmed by the verve, vivacity and charm exhibited by our speaker, Joan Cummins as she spoke on the topic of Interviewing. Currently part of the BBC Midlands Today Regional news team, Joan brought to her subject many years of experience of radio and TV journalism working in many outlets.

As a broadcast journalist, Joan has met and interviewed many famous people as well as ordinary folk caught up in local, dramatic incidents. From Prime Ministers, (three of them) to play school teachers, Joan brings a tried and trusted technique into play. She aims to get her interviewee to comment directly on the situation usually using the Who? What? When? Why? And How? Format.

She interspersed her comments on technique with amusing anecdotes illustrating the interviewer’s need for flexibility of approach. On the spot reports can be knocked off line by the intervention of a child, an animal, an over-enthusiastic fan or a new development which calls for the interviewer to think on his / her feet.

Joan fielded questions adroitly, honestly and amusingly. She was pleased to find that the majority of her audience in agreement with her assertion that most of the media strove for sensitivity on emotional, personal issues, e.g. the deaths of the four fire-fighters in the Atherstone incident, the Charlie Hebdo affair, whilst trying to convey the distressing facts. Her description of a broadcast journalist’s typical day was enlightening, obviously based on reality and again underlining the need for a swift response and flexibility of action.

With contemporary references very much to the fore, this was an enlightening and entertaining talk given by a true professional.

Claire Spivey

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