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Friday, 24 January 2014


The legendary Sir Robin Day, around 1961, set out what he believed was a code of practice for television interviewers - although much of what he says could also be adapted for radio and print media, and on into the wider world of industry and HR.  Ego gets in the way far too often.

I think, 50 years on, this code of practice should still apply - but it doesn't, as "news" has evolved into a kind of mish-mash of soundbites, infotainment and opinion.  Sometimes the presentation is more important than the content of "news" programmes.  Thankfully, occasionally, actual news leaks out, especially when there is a big, breaking story.  But, mostly, "news"is drowned in blether, blah and glossy production.

I skim headlines these days.  I used to be an avid watcher, listener and reader of news.  But......well I could go on.

If only Sir Robin Day's code was guiding news interviewing today.....but, sadly, pigs might fly.

Sir Robin Day’s Code for Television Interviewers
1. The television interviewer must do his duty as a journalist, probing for facts and opinions.
 2. He should set his own prejudices aside and put questions which reflect various opinions, disregarding probable accusations of bias.
 3. He should not allow himself to be overawed in the presence of a powerful person.
 4. He should not compromise the honesty of the interview by omitting awkward topics or by rigging questions in advance.
 5. He should resist any inclination in those employing him to soften or rig an interview, so as to secure a “prestige” appearance or to please authority; if, after making his protest, the interviewer feels he cannot honestly accept the arrangements, he should withdraw.
 6. He should not submit his questions in advance, but it is reasonable to state the main areas of questioning. If he submits specific questions beforehand, he is powerless to put any supplementary questions which may be vitally needed to clarify or challenge an answer.
 7. He should give fair opportunity to answer questions, subject to the time-limits imposed by television.
 8. He should never take advantage of his professional experience to trap or embarrass someone unused to television appearances.
 9. He should press his questions firmly and persistently, but not tediously, offensively, or merely in order to sound tough.
 10. He should remember that a television interviewer is not employed as a debater, prosecutor, inquisitor, psychiatrist or third-degree expert, but as a journalist seeking information on behalf of the public. 

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