Last week I walked into the House of Commons, with stomach churning and palms clammy, for my interview with Emily Thornberry MP. This in itself wouldn’t have been too worrying, she is a far less terrifying prospect than the 40 faces of my course mates who would critique my questions and, more importantly, rely on my interview to produce a news story.
Given the topic of ‘electoral fatigue in the third term’, I was quite honestly, overwhelmed at first. Soon enough however, I began to enjoy my research and started to feel ownership over my questions. That, might I add, is very easy to do when sat alone with just a steamy brew and a notepad for company, but walking into the wood paneled, green leather clad cell of a room last Tuesday was something else.
Each week interviews undertaken by my course mates in similar circumstances, but in the rather more comforting surroundings of a classroom, have been improving, and quickly. It is surprising how much you can learn through just listening to someone else’s interview technique. I felt enormous pressure to do the job right.
Interviewing an MP as a trainee journalist is like, to borrow the analogy from Allan Gill, ‘entering the ring with a professional boxer’. It is certainly exhausting. There were times at which Ms. Thornberry ran away with me and I found myself listening to explanations of how many council houses in her constituency had new roofs, but I attempted to get the interview back on track. It gave me immense respect for any journalist that can really grill a politician, although I did probe on some subjects and picked up on what I thought were some interesting points. These were the times at which I felt I was getting a news story.
The debrief was fairly painless. I should have pushed harder on some topics and asked the more personal question, but overall I did well. We are still, as trainee journalists, too polite for our own good. What mattered more to me was the feedback I received from my fellow students which was really quite positive and gave me more than a little spring in my step.
An interesting lesson for me personally is that this task which I had thought was so insurmountable just a week before had left me chomping at the bit to do another interview.
It seems I’m quite enjoying the hurdles these days.