Interview Nerves

Are journalists out to get you?

Interview NervesBy Doug Weller

Are journalists out to get you? In my humble opinion, no.

Do some journalists and commentators come with agendas? The answer is probably yes.

Don’t forget that journalists are human beings and have personal opinions on a range of issues. But the vast majority of journalists are simply trying to pull together a story and get it finished by their deadline.

I’ve spoken to many people over the years who think all journalists want to catch them out.

Going into an interview and believing a journalist is going to dud you is a very negative head space. That will work against you in the media process because you will spend your entire time in ‘survival mode’, rather than concentrating on delivering a concise, clear and professional message.

Even if a journalist has a preconceived view before they speak to you, your definite and confident approach can often turn this around.

There are lots of different media formats – and some journalists and commentators use drama to try to boost ratings.  Radio ‘shock jocks’ are an example of this. But they have a transparent style so you should know what to expect.

Understanding the program’s format and interviewer’s style prior to conducting the interview is extremely important. Preparation is the key. Go in with your eyes wide open.

It’s up to you to develop and deliver messages that make your point.

Unfortunately there is a long line of ‘train wreck interviews’. An example is then rookie Senator, Ricky Muir’s interview with veteran journalist, Mike Willisee. Muir appeared unprepared and ill-equipped to handle this media interview.

In all the years I have covered stories for various news organisations, I never once left the office with the intention of stitching somebody up or pushing my own barrow.

I simply wanted to get a clear understanding of the issues and report them in a fair and balanced way. This meant I relied on my own research and the information I received before and during interviews from interviewees.

What do journalists want? They want to understand the issue completely and be able to conduct a sensible interview that works for them.

One of the biggest pitfalls when interacting with journalists is not being clear about your issue, or your messages.

When you speak to journalists they are generally going to quote you. If you haven’t prepared adequately you can get caught out.

Make sure you have your facts straight. Know why you are doing the interview. What’s the point? Where’s the value?

Sure, there may be some who don’t follow the rule book. But I truly believe that most reporters are fair and take their role seriously. They want to get it right.

Here are my major points for achieving a positive media outcome no matter what the issue:

• Interact with the journalist in a clear and positive way
• Ensure the journalist has all the facts but don’t overload them with material
• Be very clear about the messages you wish to deliver
• Deliver them in a clear, jargon free, credible way
• When the journalist hangs up the phone or walks out the door, make sure they are very clear about the facts of the issue and your messages

Ricy Muir Interview enlarged

Ricky Muir – A Deer in the Headlights

Ricy Muir Interview enlarged
By Doug Weller – Corporate Media Services

Some people like doing media interviews. They are confident, love the limelight and are naturally good at it – but most are not.

The majority of people struggle with nerves and anxiety at the thought of being on TV, with cameras in their face, answering questions.

The problem is fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of stuffing up. Fear of looking like an idiot in front of thousands, or potentially millions of people.

Most people can easily give you an opinion on anything. However, shove a microphone under their nose and even the most competent and accomplished speaker can go to water.

Many media spokespeople loathe conducting a media interview. I’ve met some who become physically ill at the thought of doing one.

Like anything, the more you practise, the better you get. So when it comes to improving your public speaking and media confidence, start small and gradually build up.

The Ricky Muir and Mike Willesee Interview

The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir had managed to avoid media contact for months after being elected to the senate.

Mr Muir remained elusive as requests for media interviews were referred to others.

Unfortunately when media shy Ricky Muir finally fronted, he leapt straight into a national TV interview with Australian journalist, Mike Willesee. Click here to view interview

Watching that interview, it’s fair to say he is not an accomplished public speaker.

He stumbled over his words, struggled to answer questions, asked to take breaks and was clearly rattled by the entire process.

There were at least 2 cameras, one facing him and one behind him, TV lights all around and members of the TV crew to contend with.

This is a hot, uncomfortable and distracting environment. For some it can be claustrophobic. Wearing a suit jacket in that environment, as he was, can make it worse.

It looked like Ricky Muir was having what I have seen thousands of times in media training sessions, mind blanks.

He seemed so uncomfortable and nervous, the words just wouldn’t come out.

Why on earth Ricky Muir or his advisors would choose his media interview debut to be on TV with Mike Willisee, one of Australia’s most experienced journalist’s and commentators, is absolutely bewildering.

Mike Willesee has been critiscised for the way he conducted the interview but this is rubbish. He asked totally acceptable questions in a non aggressive way.

Building Media Experience

The way to deal with inexperienced media performers is to ease them into the media interview process.

Perhaps start with some low level newspaper interviews and then move to radio interviews over the phone. The more interviews you conduct, the more comfortable you feel.

Television interviews like the one Ricky Muir was subjected to are tough for even the most experienced media spokesperson.

The last thing you should do without any media experience is sit in front of a TV camera and answer difficult questions.

I would never suggest anybody with limited media skills front up to something like that.

You work your way up to TV interviews, you certainly don’t start with them.


  • Some people are natural media performers, most are not.
  • Never go into a media interview unless you are feeling confident and empowered.
  • Don’t do media interviews until you’re completely prepared and know what you want to gain from the process.

Further Information

Mike Willesee responds to criticism over Ricky Muir Interview

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Any information presented on our website is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

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