Monday, 23 February 2009


There are interviews that are interviews. And there are interviews that are events. Into the latter category comes BBC TV's interview with Olympic cycling gold medalist Rebecca Romero last autumn.
The interview, on Gabby Logan's Inside Sport, was remarkable because there was no interviewer. Instead, Romero was positioned in an empty warehouse and the questions were relayed by an audio link. Instead of looking at a reporter, she was looking at a loudspeaker (and a camera crew, of course).
The result was a strangely powerful piece of television in which the attention of the viewer was focused more sharply than usual on the person being questioned. (The word "interrogated" came to mind for some reason.)
Today I spoke to both the producer of that piece, Mike Jackson, and the reporter whose questions were relayed from another part of the building, Eleanor Oldroyd. I was researching a lecture to be given later this week on unusual ways of conducting a TV interview. Why did they choose this method? Mike told me it was because he wanted to recreate the pressurised, isolated world in which Romero excels in her sporting life. And also because he wanted to probe this unique Olympian's personality by putting questions which might not have been achieveable in the conventional way.
Eleanor confirmed that she would probably not have asked some questions (such as "what do you dislike about yourself?" which elicited an illuminating answer) if she had been face to face.
It was a fascinating interview at the time and the issues surounding it are equally so. Rebecca was apparently quite happy immediately after the interview but later complained in an article in the Sunday Times. And one of the many aspects which continue to intrigue me is the feeling that the cause of pure journalism was somehow assisted by the removal of the interviewer from the room: that the humanity that exists between two people together can mitigate against the exposure of fact, detail and emotion.

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