There is no easy answer to the question, “How do you get a journalism job”. I wish there was. I started in journalism 30 years ago when the choices were much simpler. In the early Eighties, the choice was between print or broadcast. I chose broadcast, but ended up working in print and I’m now the TV Editor on the Sunday Express in London. How did I get my first job?
How to interview a celebrity
I’m the TV Editor on the Sunday Express and I interview celebrities every week. In general terms, they are very friendly though it can sometimes get sticky if you roam into areas which they don’t like. Here are 5 ways to ensure you get the best interview from a celebrity every time.
1) Polite and friendly approach
Whether your interview is face to face, or over the telephone, or indeed in a “round table” set up with other journalists, politeness is the key to a good chat. In Britain, we have famous interrogators on the television such Jeremy Paxman. Under no circumstances, should you approach an interview in this way. You will get nowhere. I have seen celebrities in round table situations stiffen up immediately upon sensing an aggressive style. Obviously there is a place for this, but not when discussing a cosy period drama with a young actress. If face to face with your talent, smile and engage the talent and try to strike a rapport before you turn on the recorder. If taking notes, make sure you look at the talent, too, otherwise you won’t connect. And look INTERESTED even if you’re not!
2) Stick to the boundaries
PRs and press agent now listen to most interviews as they take place as a matter of course. On some occasions with noted celebrities you may find yourself with as many as five other staff connected with the talent in the same room. Their job? To protect the talent. Each interview will have some agreed boundaries. The discussion may be very informal. Stick to it or the interview is likely to be terminated. Indeed you may not even get the access unless you agree to disclose exactly what you want to talk about. Don’t get cross about it. Just work with it. PRs and minders are a fixture on the media landscape and you must learn to work with them.
3) Bullet points
It’s that simple. Eight to 10 should do the trick. You should think these up while you’re doing your research, such as looking at newspaper cuttings or reading stories on the Internet. In a way, these are thoughts rather than outright questions. If you like, they are subject headings that you can expect to come up during the course of the interview. If they don’t, the bullet points are there to jog your memory. If it is an audio interview, for radio or for the interview, you can glance quickly at them and move seamlessly to the next subject. So obviously don’t make the points too detailed on your pad. You want to digest it and move on quickly. Try not to ask questions which only solicit a one word answer. This will make it a very long interview for both concerned!
Again, this is stating the bleeding obvious. Or is it? So many times as an interviewer you can be concentrating on what you next need to ask, and completely miss a new thread to the interview. This is a bad habit of mine. Listen, listen, listen! The best practice for interviewing, apart from doing it over and over, is to do it without questions prepared whatsoever. This is often the case for news interviews, where you are put on the spot immediately. It makes you listen.
5) Don’t be a fan
Difficult not to be too starstruck, indeed nervous when first meeting a celebrity. Thankfully, you have a job to do, which tends to distance you from the star sitting in front of you. The interviewee is simply a person telling you a story, from which you need to get your own story, your own angle. That will concentrate the mind, if nothing else!
Some interesting thoughts on salary packages in India
It’s worthy of a spread bet: BT versus Sky. If you were a bookmaker it’s a mouth-watering encounter. Two British companies thumping it out for the sake of the British sports fan. Well, so they say. It’s laudable and we appreciate it. In one corner is Sky who have a stranglehold on the sports TV market with the majority of rights for anything decent i.e. Football, rugby and cricket. Then along comes new upstart player BT who think it’s wrong that Sky have such a monopoly. The regulators agree and force Sky to offer their content to BT Vision, their pay TV service. Half of all people surveyed said they would take up BT Vision if there were sports. Let’s wait and see. So the Sky Sports packages are now available and if you’re already a BT Broadband customer it’s a good deal and cheaper than Sky depending on just how much sport you would like to watch. The BT pitch is that as a Sky customer with a sports package there are many other channels you simply don’t want. Makes sense.
My initial view was that it was wrong for BT to be allowed this content since they hadn’t originally paid for the rights. But now I’ve come around to the punters’ view: get prices down. There’s too much money in rights anyway and it doesn’t help us win a World Cup, or a Champions League final (it may have helped with the Ashes). So good luck to BT; the long suffering British sports fan is with you all the way. The man with the vision behind BT Vision is Marc Watson. He has great belief in this service, which will also be incorporated in Project Canvas next year. That’s the new BBC-driven, Broadband TV service about which you will hear many things over the next six months. Here’s my chat with Watson, CEO of BT Vision, from whom you will hear much in the next six months too.
And yes I declare an interest. I already have Sky Sports.
Sports types have a particular aura. It’s not something spiritual, just a definitive sense of who they are. So it is with Martina Navratilova whom I met in Wimbledon – the local cinema, not the All England Club – where she was promoting a new film on ESPN about her long-term friendship with Chris Evert. The paradox of the documentary is great rivals on the court, but off the court they could talk about everything. When you talk to Martina, you encounter a warm, funny and sometimes self-deprecating woman, but also a woman who, bizarrely, doesn’t like to talk about British tennis. Ooh no. Listen at the end of the interview when I broach the subject. Did she “walk out”? Well, she made it very aware that the interview was over and walked away to sign posters and that was it. I didn’t even get a, “Missing you already”. I’m blaming Andy Murray of course.
Putting that aside, the film itself is a departure for a sports doc. It’s focussed on the personal story of these two women. Incredible rivals of the court, but close friends in the locker room. For the record, Martina has the bragging rights in one-to-one contests in grand slams. Here is the Q & A in the cinema, together with my interview. The film goes out in October 2010 in the UK, but sooner in the States. Hannah Storm is chairing the session, and produced the film too.
A break from the TV agenda, to let you see a “photo-essay” on a wonderful day raising money for the British Heart Foundation. One of the things about the day is that it’s a “ride” and not a race. People ride too fast, yes, but that definitely doesn’t include us. We left at 7am, and arrived at 5.30pm. I was thinking of phoning ahead for a B&B. We also stop far too often, obviously allowing our muscles to cool down inviting injury and the prospect of pulling in for another pit-stop. It’s a wonderful, sociable day, with terrific support from locals along the way. It will surprise you.
I heartily recommend the ride to anyone.