Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What is an interview all about?

I watched an interview (1 and 2) by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN site today. While I do not want to comment anything on the subject matter of the interview, I felt the need to raise a few points about the way an interview should be conducted. (As usual the disclaimer that I have no experience in interviewing etc. but still it should be clear to anyone watching this that this is not the best way to interview someone)

What is the objective when you interview someone? To understand the interviewee's point of view, or to keep interrupting him time and again before he makes his point so that you seem to have the edge on him? Mr. Thapar may be a celebrated interviewer, but everytime I feel irritated that he just doesn't let the person complete his point. He makes statements and on cross-examining, changes them to his convenience!

I find this to be extremely wrong. You call a person to know his views. (S)he should get an opportunity to present them in the right way. It is also unfair that the interviewer is prepared with random statistics before the interview, and expects the other person to know them, acknowledge them and react to them after hearing them for the first time, without ever getting a chance to verify them, know their authenticity or the circumstances in which those statistics were gathered!

I must stress that I am not even siding with any point of view in this particular interview in this article. The question is just what constitutes a good interviewer, and I am sorry, but being an aggresive, stats-spewing machine is just not that.
I am sure some of you will say that the title "Devil's advocate" justifies all of this behavior, but really, it doesn't!! The reason you became a devil's advocate was to find out the views of the other person by assuming a position opposite him. Nothing wrong with that, but you still have to interview and LISTEN to the views being expressed!

Some of the best interviews I have seen are by Pranoy Roy and its not hard to see why. He does not interrupt, yet when he speaks, he commands enough respect to be not interrupted by the interviewee. When he does speak, he clears his point at length, and then sits back and waits for the answer to roll out. Thats how it should be. Isn't it so simple? One person talks, one listens. Otherwise its just noise.

And speaking of noise, Karan Thapar is still a good interviewer with at least a good agenda to speak about. The following two interviews by Mr. Prabhu Chavla(Sidhi Baat - Aaj Tak) are the most stupid interviews I have seen for a long long time.

1. Interview with Yuvraj Singh (1)

2. Interview with Rakhi Sawant (1,2 and 3)

And after that, I do not have the heart to say anything more on bad interviewing, as that would just mean beating an old point to death!

Update: It seems the videos are no longer available on YouTube. Well, just catch any of his interviews :P