Natalie and myself will be presenting on interviewing tomorrow night, but I wanted to give you guys some food for thought before then. The vast majority of interviews go off without a hitch. The interviewee is prepared, helpful, and friendly. However, in what I call the “nightmare interview,” the subject is unprepared, in a bad mood, or just plain mean. Every question turns into an attack on the interviewer’s credibility (“Why would you ask me that? That’s stupid”). As a professional, you have an obligation to salvage the interview somehow, but when do you pull the plug? For an example, here’s Quentin Tarantino going off on some poor journalist:
I also wanted to emphasize the importance of recording interviews. In my journalist days, I interviewed a political candidate who wasn’t quite the “nightmare interview” type, but almost. When the story came out in the paper the next day, he called in, demanding a retraction because he felt I had misquoted him (he used the interview as an opportunity to attack his opponent). When I asked if he’d like to listen to my recording of the interview, he decided to let it go. Written notes aren’t always reliable, and the recording gives you the extra insurance against accusations of misquoting.