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Public Grilling: The art of the interview

Journalists from the ABC, Monica Attard, Fran Kelly, Sally Neighbour and Chris Uhlmann gave their thoughts on; is it still possible to do a good public grilling, how often can you badger a politician, overexposure and what part of the process do they enjoy the most (to name a few).

Chris Uhlmann thinks it still possible to give a politician a good grilling. However, he highlighted the 24/7 nature of the media and that it can be a challenge for a journalist to come up with something new with the politicians having so many outlets to choose from. Uhlmann highlighted how the mediums of Facebook, Twitter, and commercial television, to name a few, could be controlled by a politician and hard-hitting programs on the ABC could be avoided.

Sally Neighbour concurred and stated politicians these days were far more calculating as there were more opportunities for a politician to get their message across to the public.

In answering the question of how often a journalist badgers a politician all of the panelists said it depends on how much the politician avoids the question.  Each felt if they knew the politician well enough and if they saw them ducking the question they would persist. Chris Uhlmann recalled he asking the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd eight times ‘what were the consequences of Australia withdrawing from Iraq?’ Prime Minister Rudd did not answer the question.

Monica Attard gave a good example of how John Howard was skilled at controlling the time when being interviewed. Attard stated without a doubt Howard first answer always took three minutes. Attard felt if she was to interrupt Howard she would be criticised for doing so as to not allowing the Prime Minister (at the time) to answer the question.

Overexposure and the issue of news now running 24 hours per day was a lengthy issue each journalist talked about.

Each journalist felt the mediums of Twitter and Facebook where the monitoring public could have their say was out of control in regards to personal attacks. Fran Kelly also made the point of how disgraceful the personal attacks were on politicians on talk-back-radio.

Chris Uhlmann felt it was impossible for a politician to run from a story nowadays as it would be reported on in all mediums twenty-four hours. However Fran Kelly thought because of news being 24-hours then a politician could wait it out as something else would take the headlines sooner than later.

For the process the journalists enjoyed the most Fran Kelly stated it was the interview for her and taking on the weight of responsibility to get to the matter of the subject, in a way to discover the truth. Monica Attard said was the engagement between herself and the person being interviewed. She enjoyed the long form interviewing the most where she could take up to thirty to forty minutes for her interviews.  Chris Uhlmann felt it was the personal interview where he sat with a notepad and pen as he recognised how people changed in their mannerisms when put in front of a microphone or camera.

Blair Casey is a Southern Cross University Creative Writing student.

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