How NOT to interview a Bishop
Blogged by James Preece on 26th November 2009
In just under a weeks time I will be interviewing Bishop Terence Drainey, the Bishop of Middlesbrough for the Catholic Herald. I've never interviewed a Bishop before and I've been keeping an eye on the various interviews that have been published lately with various figures in the Church. This week the front cover of The Tablet is a huge picture of Archbishop Vincent Nichols because they have an interview with him by Catherine Pepinster (the editor of The Tablet). I know that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones but I have to say that it is possibly the worst interview I have ever seen.
The full "interview" (if we can call it that) is 2000 words long, yet it takes Catherine Pepinster a full 470 words before she even quotes the Archbishop once. Quotes, it seems, are not her forte. She prefers to write things like "What Nichols seems anxious to avoid is any risk to relations between Catholics and Anglicans in Britain" leaving the reader with little idea of what the Archbishop actually said. If he seems anxious, why not ask him? How hard is it to say "are you a bit anxious about this?" and then the Archbishop can respond "yes" or "no" or "a bit" and we can find out what he actually has to say instead of relying on this lady's interpretation.
I wondered quite how bad it was, so I pasted it in to word and highlighted the Archbishop's words. Here's an overview...
To make the effect clearer, I did a bit of copying and pasting to put his and her words together in groups...
Out of 2000 words only 508 belong to the Archbishop. That's not an interview, that's a lecture.
If you are the sort of person who enjoys train wrecks then you can read the whole awful thing here but if you would like to see real excellence in interviewing then compare that with Luke Coppen's excellent interview with the same man here.
I'm grateful to Catherine Pepinster really. I might have been a bit nervous about interviewing Bishop Drainey but not now. Even if I burst in to tears and he spends the full hour reading a book while I sob uncontrollably on the floor.. there's no way my interview can end up as badly as this one.