Adversarial news coverage

In an idle moment I read this article. It’s an adversarial interview. Only it’s in the lifestyle section and it’s of a celebrity – Dolly Parton, who has always seemed like quite a nice sort, though you wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that it wasn’t so. Anyway, since it’s ‘lifestyle’ journalism with a celebrity, you’d think it would be a little trove of interesting information and reflections. Alas, it consists of the journalist being faintly superior (well it is reprinted from a British newspaper) and asking Parton unpleasant questions. Why haven’t we seen more of her husband and is she secretly a lesbian getting it off with her girlfriend? Guess what Dolly says? She says that her husband is a private person – ergo we don’t see much of him and her best friend is her – um best friend. As you can see, adversarial interviewing is a great way to get really interesting information.

In fact interviewing involving listening to what the interviewee wants to say is almost always better, even in politics. It is I presume, why someone like Geraldine Doogue got tired of traditional political reporting and does interviews which are sympathetic, which is not to say always agreeing with her interviewees or even giving them an easy time, but always listening to them and trying to get out of them whatever it is that they may have to say for themselves.

Here endeth the rant.

8 thoughts on “Adversarial news coverage

  1. Hadley Freeman makes her living of being snide. Unlike her Guardian colleagues Marina Hyde, Charlie Brooker and David Mitchell, she’s not even funny. Waste of column inches.

  2. The problem with celebrity interviews – particularly with such veteran and iconic entertainment figures such as Dolly Parton – is that everything has already been done. Their lives are an open book. All the anecdotes have been told. And we’ve heard all the lame and smutty jokes about her chest size. UK journalists, in particular, attempt to get around this by creating an incident in the interview – usually by provoking the star and messing up their PR agent’s script. When that doesn’t work, they lead the story with “Dolly Parton was running late….”. Spare me. Anyone who writes celebrity features for a living has my sympathy. Anyone who has to read them even more.

  3. Interestingly, there was a quite-good Dolly Parton interview with Jude Rogers at the Quietus which dealt with the kinds of problems Mr Denmore mentions by being open about what it is like to interview someone like Dolly. The style may not be for everyone, but all up you get a better impression of who Dolly might be from Jude Rogers than from Hadley Freeman.

    Do you think a less adversarial form of interview would get more useful information from a government minister, for example? Or does the politician just get to spout lines at length in that situation?

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