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Humphrys gives masterclass in interview technique

John Humphrys has become known for the pit bull approach to interviewing. In fact, he is an extremely skilled interviewer who does his research very thoroughly and chooses a technique to suit the subject.

On Radio 4’s Today programme interview with Tony Blair this morning he used a measured tone but was persistent and robust. About 20 minutes into the interview he asked Blair if agreed with his former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, that an attack on Iran was “inconceivable”.

As the prime minister tried to avoid giving a direct answer the hesitations, the ums and ers and repeated words increased. In what sounded like a desperate attempt to change the subject Blair said: “The questions people should be asking me is, what do you do if they get a nuclear weapon?”

Humphrys: “Go on. What do you do?”

Blair: “Exactly. It’s a very hard question. That’s why we have to make sure the political and diplomatic track works.”

The full flavour of this interview can only come from hearing it. Every student journalist should listen to it at the Radio 4 website. It is a masterclass.

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  1. Michael Kenward says

    Humphrys was a buffoon. He may think he is the Paxman of Radio 4, asking the same question over and over, but in reality it meant that he wasted time.

    Measured tone? Rubbish. It was too easy for Blair, who could not get a word in edgeways without being interrupted after half a sentence.

    One day they will get in an interviewer who manages to lure their victims into what looks like a safe corner before clobbering them with something with real insight.