Charlet Duboc is an award-winning correspondent and seasoned producer at VICE, where she has fronted a variety of factual content across many of VICE's digital and television platforms. Most recently she was awarded the Frontpage Newswomen's award for special reporting as creator and producer of the VICELAND documentary series States of Undress. Charlet's work spans a diverse remit of international human interest and cultural exposé stories, and even satire, which has taken her from North Korea to the Gaza strip and everywhere in between. She is currently based in New York as a reporter on VICE's news show for the HBO network.
Whenever I’ve worked with and mentored new hosts in the art of interviewing, there are a few rookie mistakes that people tend to make over and over. Here are some pointers to help make sure you don’t make them, too.
Don't stick slavishly to a list of pre-written questions that you've memorised.
TIP #1: LISTEN
A lot of hosts tend to worry more about how their question sounds than listening to the actual answer they are given. So, listen! It’s a conversation after all. While this may sound obvious, make sure you follow up on their answer – don't stick slavishly to a list of pre-written questions that you've memorised. You can and should steer the interview in the way you want it to go, but if they’re not playing ball or feeding into the narrative you were hoping to get from them, you will just end up losing if you keep hammering away trying to confirm your own pre-established biases.
TIP #2: TO PREPARE, BE PREPARED
Or in other words: arm yourself. Spend the night before the interview watching and listening to any previous ones they’ve done. Once you start to become familiar with their tics and idiosyncrasies, you will know what to watch out for when you talk to them.
Watch a lot of legendary, exemplary interviews conducted by your idols. Watch Paxman, watch Andrew Neil.
TIP #3: LEARN FROM THE BEST
Watch a lot of legendary, exemplary interviews conducted by your idols. Watch Paxman, watch Andrew Neil. Equally, watch how tough, slippery interviewees behave. Watch Hitchens. Watch debates like the ones between William F Buckley and Gore Vidal.
TIP #4: KNOW YOURSELF
Be sure to identify what your own natural skills and limitations are. In order to be a host you must already have some people skills, so try to be realistic about your weaknesses and strengths. For example, I may not be the most well-read or stern interviewer but I know how to charm people and make them feel comfortable, and that can be just as powerful as a head full of books.
TIP #5: GIVE AS GOOD AS YOU GET
In recent years I've heard an increasing number of women complain about how much harder it is to be a female journalist when it comes to dealing with male interviewees or sources being sleazy. I actually think there's a way to play that to your advantage. As Joan Didion wrote in her essay Slouching Toward Bethlehem, “My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does.” If you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t respect your standing as a journalist, stay smart and use it to your advantage.
Read more from Charlet