Interviewing for Radio

Today at uni we were doing mock interviews, as part of the Interviewing for Radio module. This was an unassessed task designed for us to practice our interviewing skills, and there will be lots more in the week to come. Practice is the only way to improve at interviewing.

In small groups we were tasked with researching an animal charity (our group had been given PDSA). This afternoon, after doing all our research last week, we did the interview: I interviewed Robin, who was ‘in character’ as a representative from the PDSA. The interview took place in the Radio Production studio at uni, with the entire class plus our lecturer listening in on the speakers outside.

It didn’t exactly go to plan.

The first couple of minutes were great – and then it went downhill.

I should perhaps have known that we weren’t going to succeed when we spent hours searching the Internet last week trying to find what PDSA actually stood for, only to find this afternoon that its full title is written in the copyright notice at the bottom of every page on its website. Oops! 😐

The problem is that I am not the best person to conduct an interview – particularly a live one where editing out all the pauses is not an option.

The fact is that I can not keep up with what an interviewee is saying. I can’t think quick enough to be able to process their answer and ask a suitable question afterwards.

It is perhaps for this reason that presenting a music radio show – such as those done by Desmond Carrington and David Jacobs on Radio 2 – is what I am best at and most interested in. Even then, without the correct preperation that can all go wrong too.

When I do my show on Tone Radio every week, I have a script 8 pages long. I write down word for word what I am going to say in between each song. I seem to be quite good at reading from a script – on air, you probably wouldn’t even know that any script exists. Perhaps this is why being a newsreader for Tone Radio suits me well!

Without a proper script to follow, my default setting is to announce the time and move on to the next record. If I’m controlling the desk myself, when things go wrong I can play in a quick jingle to give myself time to sort it.

This was not an option today though, as I sat in the radio production studio with the interviewee, whilst someone else operated the desk from the control room behind the glass. There was nothing I could do to stop the awkward silences as I struggled to think of the next question. And as it was a “live” interview, removing the silences in the edit was not an option.

Help MeIt is for this reason, that I have now printed off an A4 sheet of paper with HELP ME written on it in massive letters – so that when I get in to trouble next time I can hold it up to ask the person in the control room for backup.

I have known for a long time that interviewing is my weak point. I can happily do anything else related to radio, but I have never felt comfortable being the interviewer.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind about the interview not going to plan, were it not for the fact that the whole class was listening in to everything I did wrong.

Of course – we are still in the very early stages of the Interviewing for Radio module. The whole point of the module is that we learn. If my radio production skills were perfect, there’d be no point in me being at uni.

I think it is worth stressing once more that, despite the interview not going to plan, it was an unassessed task. It was the first of many unassessed interviews. So I will learn from this experience and improve my preparation next time – and next week’s task will all be about chairing a discussion. Could be interesting.

BBC GlosIn other news, today I brought myself a new DAB/FM alarm clock for my weekday residence in Cheltenham. Even when its tuned to an FM station, it knows what its tuned in to. Very clever!

How I’ve managed to live in this place with just a mobile phone ringtone to wake me up in the mornings since September I don’t know: when I’m at home over the weekends, I always have a radio alarm clock to wake me up in the mornings, and to be honest, I have always felt a little lost here during the week without a proper alarm clock in the morning!

Talking of alarm clocks, I’d better set it to wake me up in the morning. I’ve set the FM alarm clock to BBC Radio Gloucestershire, and the DAB alarm clock to BBC Radio 2. I’ll be using the FM alarm clock to wake up tomorrow morning.

I’m going to bed now. Good night.


Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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