Being interviewed by the media

As a charity, New Family Social works to raise awareness of LGBT adoption and fostering. Personal stories from our members can be thought provoking and give real insight, and your help with this can make a huge difference.

With thanks to BAAF for their help, this brief guide is intended to help prepare you for your interview.

Before the interview

Initial contact
The media request that you are responding to should give full details of the planned media item, to help you decide whether to go ahead. If any information is missing, do ask the journalist for more information before making a decision. You may want to know:

  • what publication or radio/TV station the journalist is from
  • whether it is a well-known/respectable publication, radio station or TV company
  • what the journalist wants to talk about
  • what type of article or programme is planned (i.e. news report, feature article, documentary, chat show)
  • If it’s TV or radio, will it be live or pre-recorded
  • what the deadline for the piece is
  • who else will be interviewed on the subject

Issues surrounding identity and information protection
Here are some key points:

  • There is no such thing as off the record – never tell a journalist anything you wouldn’t want to see in print
  • Make it clear to the journalist not to disclose any specifics about where you
  • Never disclose the reasons behind why your child came into care
  • Never discuss anything to do with the birth family
  • You can always ask to use false names in case you are worried about identification

On the whole, journalists prefer to use real names. However, it may be the case that a potential interviewee is happy to be interviewed so long as their identity – and that of their family – is protected. In such situations, the journalist may be able to accommodate this – for example, in a newspaper article, names and other identifying details will be changed.

If you have decided that you don’t want your identity revealed in an interview, make sure you tell the journalist this before going ahead. It is important that the journalist has understood you properly because, once the article has come out, it is too late to make any changes.

Think about what type of questions you might be asked, and about the responses you can give. Where possible, think of anecdotes that will add colour to your story. You may find that a ‘mock interview’ with a friend will help you to clarify your thoughts. There is no need to memorise statements though, as this will make the interview appear forced.

You may feel a little nervous in the run up to the interview, especially if it’s your first one. Remembering the following points may help. Firstly, you are not being asked to perform but to be yourself: it is your story that people want to hear about – so try not to worry too much! Secondly, the journalist is a professional who is accustomed to speaking to nervous interviewees and who will therefore be able to put you at ease and guide your through the interview. For example, he/she may ask the same question in different ways so as to give you the opportunity to answer as fully as possible.

Sometimes a newspaper journalist may offer you a choice of whether to be interviewed in person or over the telephone. Some people find it easier to talk about personal experiences face-to-face. Keep in mind, however, that your relationship with the journalist is of a professional nature: do not allow a journalist’s sympathetic manner to cause you to confide more than you intended to.

Once you have prepared, you can relax and look forward to the experience. Allow yourself enough time on the day to travel to the interview location, or before the journalist is due to telephone/visit.

During the interview

You may wish to keep the following tips in mind during your interview:

  • Never talk ‘off the record’. Always assume that everything you say may be used.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’.
  • Once you have made your point, feel free to stop talking.
  • If there is a question for which you can’t think of an answer immediately, just ask for more time or say that you’ll come back to it later.
  • If you are uncomfortable with a question, state simply that you would rather not answer it.
  • Correct any misinformation in the question before you answer it.
  • When the interview is over, it’s OK to ask to have a look at a journalist’s quotes.

After the interview

Congratulate yourself on a job completed! You have done your part and now it’s just a question of waiting for the publication/broadcast of the interview.

In the meantime, let the journalist know how best to contact you if they need to clarify anything prior to the article’s release. Because all articles are edited after the journalist submits what they have written, it is unlikely the journalist will be able to let you see a copy of the article before publication.

Make sure you know the publication/broadcast date. Journalists are usually happy to send you copies of articles if you ask. Some TV stations will send you a dvd of the programme, but not always – in which case either yourself or a friend could record it. Radio stations are usually willing to record the programme for you on tape, although you must ask them to do this before the programme is transmitted.

Additional tips for TV interviews

  • Think about your body language – try not to tap your feet, fold your arms or check your watch repeatedly.
  • Wear something in plain colours: narrow stripes and small checks can look busy on television.
  • Try to look at the person asking the questions, rather than at the camera.
  • If you make a mistake in a pre-recorded interview, don’t worry, just ask the interviewer to give you the question or sentence again.

Case study: Radio interview

Jackie was adopted when she was six months old and, at the age of 32, decided to trace her birth mother. She agreed to be interviewed on a live radio phone-in about adoption. Here she recounts her experience:

“Since it was my first experience of being interviewed, I was quite nervous. A car came to pick me up and take me to the radio studio.

“Having never been to a radio studio before, I was a bit overwhelmed by the technical side of it and by all the activity that was going on around me. But everyone was really helpful and I was guided through the interview process by the very friendly presenter. I was told to move towards the microphone when I was talking, and away from it when not talking, and to address my answers to the presenter. We were sitting in a room with glass partitions and I had to concentrate on not getting distracted by the fact that Angela Rippon and Toyah Wilcox were sitting in the room next door to me!

“The radio programme lasted about an hour during which I answered questions from the presenter and from members of the public. Being part of a panel of four meant that the onus wasn’t on me to do all the talking. One woman phoned in because she was worried that her adopted child would blame her and, as an adoptee myself, I was able to reassure her that I didn’t think this would be the case. As the programme progressed, I became more confident and relaxed and really began to enjoy talking about my experience – so much so that I could have kept talking after the programme had ended! This is definitely something I would like to do again.”

If you there is anything you are unclear about or any questions you would like to ask, please contact NFS – and thank you for your invaluable support.