‘His success was faintly disgusting, as if the great mystery and wonder of TV had turned out to be a sham’ was what Jonathon Ross hinted to British Press Award winner, Lynn Barber, back in 1997 – or at least that’s what she interpreted. The unique interviewer knew how to have conversations with the stars and it’s what makes the book ‘Demon Barber’ such a great read. In my eyes, Lynn Barbers interviewing technique, although obscure, can’t all be faulted and has set the standards, pushing aspiring journalists to have the confidence to dig deeper.
Demon Barber, 1998, is one of those reads that allows you to get inside the heads of certain celebrities; from Jonathon Ross to Eddie Izzard and Calvin Klein to Stephen Fry; all people of high status & interest to us as consumers of the media. Although the book of interviews, and the celebrities themselves are very dated now, the depth of insight you get into the real lives of the celebrities offers a real sense of satisfaction as a lot of the responses are not what you’d expect.
Lynn Barber is an individual who worked in the world of Journalism suffering reputed quails from press agents because of her odd style of interviewing. She managed to force things out of celebrities that no one deemed possible, such as the failures in their lives that many of us are oblivious to. Although this might sound like she is tries to expose them out of spite or provoke a scandalous headline, deep down she likes people she interviews and it’s for this reason that she wants to know what makes them tick – it was purely through a passionate interest in other people that she wanted to analyse their characters.
I chose to read the book based on the fact I have a real interest in Celebrity Journalism and thought getting to know more about some of the legends would spur me on to put myself in a future position to grill celebs of interest to me.
It’s sad to think now that majority of our interests go as far as following someone one Facebook or Twitter, this unfortunately does not mean you get to know what you’re hoping to find out, it’s rather just reiterating what the person you follow wants you to know about them.
OR, if you are brave enough to enter some sort of conversation with a source via social media, you just don’t receive the same sort of in-depth answer as you would when probing them in person. It were these exact thoughts that I had whilst reading ‘Demon Barber’ and so I decided to try to challenge them – I’d set myself up to attempt an interview via social media to see if I could prove my ideas wrong.
So off I went in search of 1,2,3,4 journalists to grill and then all that was left was to ask:
— Amy Watson (@AmyLaurren) November 24, 2014
It was one of those moments I thought to myself, ‘as if these well-known journalists are going to have the time to talk to little old me’ and with that I gained 4 replies in a matter of minutes.
They all agreed face-to-face interviews were the best & I soon realised why after waiting patiently for the next reply.
@AmyLaurren in person always still the best – that way you can read the way interviewee behaving + get other info from way they greet etc.
— Natalie Jamieson (@Nat_Jamieson) November 25, 2014
As much as we believe social media has offered us the power to interact with anyone and seek out news, it really doesn’t offer a journalist much help when trying to interview. I’d set myself up with false hope – being able to reach out to these individuals but not hearing what I wanted back was a frustrating situation to be in.
Instead of allowing me to find out in-depth information, it left me behind a barrier with no alternative way to get hold of the interviewees.
The limited 140 characters & a lack of being able to read someones non verbal communication, meant I couldn’t work out how to ask the right questions or gauge an in-depth answer.
It just goes to show, that in a developing world that focuses so much on social media, it’s not always the best platform to carry out journalistic duties.
Unless of course, as Jane Singer and others in their 2011 ‘Participatory Journalism’, you’re a journalist trying to reach out to bloggers, serving as an expert responding to the questions of motivated users who connect to chat at a scheduled time like #journchat Tweets, you’re not going to get the conversation you want and can’t encourage it like an face-to-face interview would.
Tony Harcup in his 2009 ‘Journalism:Principles and Practices’ believes that conversation is key in an interview, this is something that is not easily encouraged via the social media platform Twitter, therefore it is hard to understand if your questions are going to be answered properly.
Maybe one day Journalists will see the need to use social media for interviews – when we’re all incapable of meeting face-to-face due to the unstoppable power the internet has over us, or when we understand how to read personalities online in the same way we do in person. But for now, interviews are a key part of journalism that haven’t and shouldn’t be adapted by the online world like the format of stories themselves have.
Human interaction is important in writing a brilliant journalistic piece and it would be a shame to ever tamper with that.