Nonfiction writers can glean insight from Barbara Walters advice on Oprah’s Master Class. After years of interviewing celebrities and past presidents, she shares a few of her inside secrets for a successful interview.
Curiosity may have killed the cat. But it makes an interviewer’s career. Walters says, “I think that the interviewer/correspondent should have curiosity. If you don’t have curiosity, you’re not going to make it.
Good listening skills are a dying art. We’re often so busy trying to think up the next genius question, we miss out on important revelations, body language and the truth behind what our subjects are really trying to say behind their often politically correct words.
“The most important thing that a journalist or an interviewer can do is to listen…If you don’t listen, you’re not a journalist,” states Walters.
We stand in the way of the success of our pieces when we stick to our own agendas. Walters beckons us to be present and again listen. But not just to what our subjects are saying, but how they are saying it. Being in the moment with them can tune us into what we should ask next.
“It is not the first question. It’s the second. Too often we write the questions down and no matter what the person says we go onto our second question and our third question cause that’s the way we’ve written it. We shouldn’t. The first question gets asked and the second question should be, “Why? How come? Tell me more.”…”I have written 50 questions and after the first question I rip the rest up and I just go with it and listen.”