My Interview was Very Therapeutic

Radio Flyer TricycleThere's a nice writeup of the Weblogs.Com move by Staci D. Kramer on Wired News this morning, which of course alleviates all of my previously voiced concerns about the press.

Being interviewed weirds me out, even though I should be familiar with the process after 6.5 years of journalism school (slow learner) and prior employment as an ink-stained wretch.

When the reporter called, I was reminded of the advice given a few years ago by Brad DeLong -- choose five major points you want to make and never deviate from them:

The key is to leave no footage that can be used to show you confused, incoherent, or saying something that is not one of your major points. So what you need to do is to (a) take every question, (b) use it as a springboard to make one of your five points, and (c) keep replying with one of your five points no matter what the question is and no matter how many times you have made your five points before.

Here's a rough approximation of my five points:

  1. No weblogs were harmed in the making of Buzzword.Com.
  2. This was only a four-day server outage.
  3. Buy my Radio UserLand book.
  4. Buy my Movable Type book.
  5. Buy my Java book.
  6. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

That's more than five points, but it didn't matter. Ten minutes into the interview, I had forgotten any points I was hoping to make and responded to questions with so much self-enchanted candor that Kramer should bill my HMO for a therapy session.

I'm glad she didn't quote from my rambling discussion of how the server transition crystallized my unresolved feelings about the tricycle left behind during my family's move from Wichita Falls to Dallas when I was five.


"Hmm!" he said appreciatively. Pretty good article, actually. Nice, strong lead and all that stuff. Had no idea you were part of the RSS 2.0 committe thing, too (Hmm!).

In the interest of full disclosure (or wotever J-school lesson it falls under), may I ask if either of you knew Staci prior to this write-up?

No? *doffs cap* we close the curtains on our little play

Yes? *shakes fist* why yoooo...!

Best of luck, RC. You're a great writer. Honestly. Look forward to hooking up with you on the next Rush Limbaugh gaffe (and you know there will be one. these suckers never quit). The ESPN beef was where I first 'met' and respected you. Tally ho.

I didn't know her before the phone call yesterday. She interviewed Dave earlier for an RSS piece and got a quote that I really like:

"I'm not everybody," Winer admits. "I'm not a huge number of people. But I'm a growing number of people."

I could explain the context, but it's more fun without it.



Brad DeLong's advice dovetails nicely with the advice I got from my publicist before interviews for print: If you don't want to answer a question, don't. Just say you'd rather not answer.

While at first blush, you might think that you will be humiliated by a headline to the effect of "Interviewee Evades Questions," in practice this is only a realistic fear if you are a major government or business figure being interviewed for a major newspaper piece. For normal interviews, the writer (and especially the writer's editor) will not put what you don't say in print.

When putting this into practice, I noticed that I was at first uncomfortable and embarrassed to respond that way, but I quickly got used to it. Some reporters try to use this social comfort factor to get you to respond, creating periods of silence or repeating the question. Once they figure out you're not playing the game, it gets easy.

I think that cops interrogating suspects use the same tactics. If suspects just realize that it's not important what the cops think about you -- save it for the trial -- they wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot by talking to the cops and being led into contradictions.

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA (for which the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply).