Coventry Conversations – Kirsty Wark

Knowing very little about this ‘Renaissance Woman‘, I decided on spare of the moment to crash into the lecture theatre and grab a seat, given that this talk had been recommended by just about every single lecturer on my course.

Kirsty starts off by talking about her career at present, mentioning Newsnight, and some of her most recent interviews. She has conducted many interviews during her lifetime, and I realise that it will be her pointers on this aspect of media to which I should pay particular attention to.

She says that Jeffrey Archer was her least favourite interview, as he was just an ‘unpleasant character’. In contrast, she also mentions Toni Morrison and Pete Doherty as her favourite interviews. In naming her interviews, one member of the audience pounced upon her now infamous interview with a Scottish MP back in 2007, which was done so bad the BBC had to issue the MP an apology. She explains that she felt strongly on the matter, but was in no way justified in the way she acted. When pressed for an answer of whether she considered it a good interview, she simply replied ‘no’, adding complements to the student for ‘pushing her for a direct answer’.

This leads her to talk about several political points, including the BBC World Service and Wikileaks. With regards to her infamous interview of 2007, she states that it is always important to detach yourself from the material, no matter how strongly you feel about the issue. Detach yourself emotionally, and remain professional. On the topic of challenging interviews, she boasts with a certain confidence that challenging interviews are the better ones for the interviewees, for if they survive it intact, they appear all the more stronger for it. She says that her show Newsnight almost has a reputation for being host to hard interviewing. However, politicians are willing to put themselves up, to try and come out on top, thus proving their steel.

With regards to her show, she highlights the importance of her audience, stating that you should never take your audience for granted, and that you should always welcome your audience ‘into the programme’. She also comments upon something called ‘Empty Chair-ing’ (where an interviewee doesn’t turn up), and how she feels that she has failed her job as an interviewer when she doesn’t cement her interview enough. When asked about what motivates her, she comments on the variety that her job offers her – pretty much identical to what Nick Owen said only weeks ago.

But then comes the most important point – on many an occasion, Kirsty has had to resort to research notes mid-interview, making sure she knew where she stood a hundred percent before making a claim or point. She advises to always have your notes on you when conducting an interview. Always, ALWAYS do your research, and when the interview occurs, bring your notes with you, just in case. You can tell she’s speaking from experience.

As the hour draws to a close, Kirsty mentions that she still wants to interview Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama. However, she also states that who you interview depends upon the structure of the show or episode you are hosting. With thanks, our guest subsequently takes a bow and zips off to the next thing on her agenda, ever busy. Students chatter immediately – apparently, they feel they’ve learned a lot!

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