I strongly recommend listening to Eric Klein’s conversation with Brian Edwards-Tiekert of KPFA-FM in Berkeley on the art of the radio interview. The whole discussion can be found on the 64th edition of the Radio Survivor podcast.
Here’s a quick excerpt of some of Brian’s comments:
“In the preparation phase, the first and most important thing to do is to get a sense of how the person talks, right? Is this someone who is going to go on and on and on and on, and I have to get ready to cut them off, or keep them on topic, or is it someone who gives really short clipped answers, and I’m going to have to draw them out?
Is it someone who is not accustomed to being interviewed? Maybe they’re an academic, and they’re an expert, but they have extreme mic shyness? In which case I have to work at putting them at ease in order to tap the knowledge that is in their brain. Or are they someone who is extremely comfortable, who is interviewed with great frequency, in which case I can throw harder questions at them and not shake them up.
The second thing is knowledge area preparation. So if I’m interviewing someone about their book, but I don’t have time to interview them about their whole book (which often I don’t), I will then at least read the introduction to get a sense of the argument that they’re making and the structure of the book. I’ll figure out what part of the book I want to drill down on and maybe read that chapter. Then I’ll read reviews to see where the book is situated in its field, what the criticisms are of the book, and finally I’ll listen to other interviews that people may have done with the same author, if they’re available online. Again, to get a sense of how that person talks.
That’s the amount of prep that I can usually do in about three hours to prepare for a book interview that will leave me sounding pretty on it, and usually leave them pretty impressed with the level of preparation.”
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