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Roger Ebert on Interviewing

I’ve been reading Ebert’s 2011 memoir, Life Itself, and among the many experiences and observations that have resonated with me was this, his methodology for conducting interviews, which is pretty aligned with my own approach:

My secret as an interviewer was that I was actually impressed by the people I interviewed…. I tend not to confront or challenge, and my best technique has been to listen. [W]hen you allow people to keep on talking, they are likely to say anything….

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4 responses »

  1. A lovely philosophy! Sometimes when I read an interview I get the feeling that the interviewer is thinking more of themselves – and I hate it when they ask a question and then almost answer it by giving the interviewee one or two ‘options’ for answering.

    Reply
    • Hi, Gabriela-

      Exactly. Ebert went on to say that he could never conduct an interview in which he pushed too deeply into someone’s private life just for the sake of getting some juicy gossip that would go over well with an editor or publisher in order to sell more copies.

      If I were to add one aspect of my own interviewing philosophy to augment Ebert’s, it would be this: I’m always looking to ask the questions that other interviewers haven’t asked. Why do interviewers ask the same thing over and over? Sometimes I’ll ask an interviewee: “What do you wish interviewers would ask you that they never do?” It’s often a great point of departure for a much deeper conversation.

      Reply
  2. So true! I’ve often thought that I fall in love with every interview. I am fascinated by the most mundane topics when the person across from me is passionate about them.

    Reply
    • Me too, Tammy! I’ve always admired Bill Moyers for this, too- you can always tell that he is deeply interested in both the person and the topic whenever/whomever he interviews.

      Reply

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