Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

When An Interview Goes Horribly Wrong

I am not claiming to be an expert on interviewing ,if anything, the exact opposite. I held my first interview on Friday. It is for an article I am writing on a fairly prominent expert in her field and TV personality. It went horribly. The story I wanted to write on this lady had been pitched as a positive one. I have a lot of respect for the lady and her professional opinions. So what went wrong? 

First of all a blinding revelation: some people are going to see you as a sneaky little journalist out to do a hatchet job on them, even if nothing could be further from the truth. They have been burned by writers before and they don’t trust you. This may sound obvious but it really was not something I had considered. I get on well with people, I thought this would be no different.

Another thing that sounds obvious make sure your research is spot on and only ask questions on things you are on very solid ground with. I really thought I had done my research thoroughly, I had spent hours but I was dealing with a two hundred page report and some pretty complex ideas. It went wrong when I decided to throw in a question motivated by personal curiosity that I had not really looked into.

In hindsight I also think it may have been a mistake to send her the questions in advance, this seemed sensible at the time but probably contributed to the situation. The question she had a problem with was the last one I asked, if she had not had prior warning we may have established a rapport by the time we got to it and she would have seen it more in context or we may not have even got that far in the time alloted.

Things were amicable in the end. Once I had managed to explain that my question may have been naive but it was certainly not designed to trip her up, she became less hostile and explained to me that the issue we were discussing was surprisingly contentious and had even resulted in people accessing her ten year old son’s social networking site to insult her. She offered to help me with anything I was unsure of, motivated I am sure by the fact that she now thinks I am a complete idiot but still, better that than believing me to be a malicious complete idiot. Hopefully I can change her opinion as we work on the article.


December 22, 2008 - Posted by | Getting published, Interviewing, Writing | , , , ,


  1. Ah, the delight of preconceptions. Hers, not yours. As you said, planted by someone else.
    Fingers crossed that once she sees the finished article she’ll know you’re not an idiot.

    Comment by Amy | December 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. Lol yeah hopefully, though she she really is frighteningly intelligent. Most people are probably idiots in comparison, I will try not to take it too hard.

    Comment by michellejbuss | December 22, 2008 | Reply

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