Monday, August 18, 2008

A Win for Warren

Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren is mostly receiving high marks for his conduct of the interviews of Messrs. McCain and Obama this past Saturday. Given that the pastor is a mere amateur at this sort of thing, those who provide the service professionally might do well to take note of what made him successful.

Interviewing is an art performed poorly by many of its practitioners, with many of the failures resulting from a couple of causes. First, in an age when many news programs build their hopes for success on the celebrity of the personality of their hosts, too many interviewers go about their business in a manner that draws attention to their own personas, not to the person answering the questions.

Think of all the presidential debates this year in which the news organization involved in the debate preceded each question by a video segment. They just couldn't resist the urge to make the debate format about themselves, not the candidates.

Second, too many news shows, following the lead of Crossfire type programming, cast the respective interviewers as either ideological opponents or soulmates of the guest. Attempts to either empathize with a guest or box him in a corner are not conducive to an informative interview.

A good interviewer knows how to ask questions that will create an opportunity for the guest to say something newsworthy, or at least interesting, and then get out of the way while the interviewee does it.

Rev. Warren managed to do just that. The professionals should take note.

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