Are there basic ground rules to follow in an interview, or is just a free for all where anything goes? Media Relations at Concordia University in Montreal, produced a helpful and useful guide to what they called “Interview Rights and Responsibilities.” It provides a framework for any interview where the rights of both parties in any interview are balanced by concurrent responsibilities.
Before agreeing to an interview they suggest, both parties should, in that well known expression, ‘Know Your Rights.’ This applies to both the interviewer and the interviewee as people and persons to be respected. If both parties agree to or are aware of these rights, however informally, a better and more balanced interview will result.
Let’s look first at the suggested rights of the subject being interviewed. These range from having the right to;
- Know who the interviewer is, where they’re from and their credentials,
- Know the subject under discussion.
- Know who else will be interviewed, and how and where the interview will be used.
- Be allowed to ‘State Key Points.’
- Have a degree of control where the interview takes place.
- And restate any long or obscure questions.
- The interviewee should be allowed to respond to any mistakes or misinformation after the interview has taken place.
The Interviewer, journalist or presenter conducting the interview on the other hand also has rights. These rights, Media Relations at Concordia suggests, should include:
- Reasonable access to “legitimate news sources”, (to produce a valid story.)
- To have their deadlines and practicalities of production considered..
- To have their questions answered, within a reasonable time frame, and be allowed to follow up questions.
- To have any mistakes or misinformation corrected, and be given reasonable access to other material.
In addition, they should be able to change the subject being discussed, and “evaluate and report the story as the reporter sees it.” Inherent in rights and responsibilities for both parties, is that they show each other the courtesy and respect each would expect of each other.
Concordia University attribute some influence on their work being an adaption of the University of California, Davis Campus’ “A Spokesperson’s Bill Of Rights.” The radio interviewer and indeed any interviewer for any media, and every interviewee are the beneficiary of both works.
Although produced some time ago, the contents are still relevant today and to have two such respected educational institutions offering advice to the radio interviewer provides excellent insight into the art of the interview. If considered and borne in mind by all parties, these rights and responsibilities should produce a better, balanced and more civilised interview in every media and not just radio.