Today I had the pleasure of speaking to some students at my daughter’s school on journalism as a career. They were happy to attend – fair enough, there were croissants – and listened well, engaging in discussions too.
I hope I was able to pass on some learnings. Like all the best speaking experiences, though, I took away something unexpected myself. Today’s lesson for Guy was about expectations: people won’t always agree with a point of view just because it looks obvious after a few years’ experience as a hack.
Here’s a widely-known video clip. I’ve used it on this site before – regular readers might recall it. If you don’t have time to watch, it’s the one in which the owner of the Cereal Killer restaurant in Camden doesn’t want to answer a question:
I asked: just out of interest, who “won” that interview?
I was surprised by the response. It was about 50/50. Now, in my mind, the interviewee – who uses a PR company so presumably wasn’t “doorstepped” but entered the interview quite willingly – is unprepared, he’s not devoting time to the interview and is completely thrown when it turns out he’s not just going to get a free advert for his restaurant. Not all of the students agreed.
One suggested there are more polite ways of making a point. Actually, “sneaky” was the phrase she used. Another thought it was a plain rude question.
Now, as a journalist I feel very strongly that at its best, my trade helps hold people to account. I have to accept, though, that not everybody is going to share my view.
So, what if the public agreed – that the interviewer was overstepping the mark, that we as a trade don’t show enough basic decency to our subjects? Remember, all the guy had done was open a restaurant, it’s hardly a criminal offence.
If you write for a living like I do, how do you make sure you’re in tune with your readership?
The illustration above is a stock picture in the public domain – the young women to whom I spoke were someone else entirely.