Britain’s top broadcasters give Ed Cunningham some tips on virtual interviews.
Is the lighting right? Is the camera angle too low? Is your underwear drying on a rack behind you?
The ability to conduct a successful interview over Zoom, Teams, or Skype has become an essential feature in a journalist’s toolkit. In the pandemic interviewers and their guests could no longer so easily be brought into the studio or flown out to far-flung locations.
With many journalists looking to continue remote working even after the end of the pandemic, the virtual interview is here to stay.
So who better to ask for essential tips than some of Britain’s most respected broadcast interviewers?
Robert Peston Political Editor, ITV
“Position your laptop, smartphone, or tablet on the tallest pile of books you can and then tilt it 20 degrees towards you. We all look better as seen from slightly above. The tragedy is I only worked this out as lockdown was ending.”
Dermot Murnaghan News Presenter, Sky News
Gillian Joseph News Presenter, Sky News
“If at home, carefully survey your background for any embarrassing detritus that may give away more about yourself than you would like to. Position the camera at the correct height with enough headroom and don’t forget to unmute. Make sure any dependents are fed and watered to avoid disturbances and if there is any casual traffic make sure they’re clothed.”
Geoff Cutmore News Presenter, CNBC
Cathy Newman News Presenter, Channel 4
“Pre-record the interview and then edit it down so you’re not under time pressure and therefore can let the interviewee answer without having to interrupt. Interruption is tricky when you’re interviewing virtually, as there’s always a delay.”
Laura Kuenssberg Political Editor, BBC
“Put your computer on a pile of books, sit back, and don’t peer into your camera. That way you won’t look like a giant, looking down your nose!”
Jonathan Rugman Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Channel 4
“The same rule which applies for face-to-face interviews: the reporter must look presentable and sit up straight! Otherwise the television camera filming ‘reverse’ and ‘cut-away’ shots in our Channel 4 News ‘Zoom room’ catches said reporter thinking he is still at home and looking like a mess. Not much can be done about not having a haircut for three months though…”