Celebrity Interviews Don't Catch a ColdAn article in the Washington Post has been making the rounds among some journalists I know. It looks at the celebrity interview and how it's become a formulaic exercise in fake intimacy. To know that, all you'd have to do is critically view or read, oh, maybe ... one celeb interview. The author, Ann Homaday, even does a short historic rundown of the origins of this most odd journalistic exercise. Here's the basics of the approach, as explained by a vet of the women's magazines:
If structured spontaneity is the coin of the realm of TV, then ersatz rapport is the folding money of print. "I write for a lot of women's magazines, and I'm always encouraged to make my subjects 'relate-able,' " says Jancee Dunn, whose memoir "But Enough About Me" chronicles her career writing celebrity profiles for such publications as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and GQ. "It's a word I hear over and over. That and 'likable.' And apparently that's due to reader demand. It's all very structured. They want to relate, they want to think of the celebrity as their best friend, or at least someone they could be friends with."The sad thing is that it is possible to do something more interesting.
Immodestly speaking, I still like the interview I did with actor Tony Shalhoub for AARP the Magazine (at least the first version that got changed significantly in the editing process). It was about making decisions (an interesting angle given that the character he plays on his show Monk couldn't pick right from left on a good day). I took his quotes and put them together for an as-told-to, though the original version before editing was better, I thought. Of course the magazine pushed for some intimate personal detail or other that would bring in the crowds, but it was still acceptable after the fact. And the real fascinating part for me was the actual discussion with Mr. Shalhoub, an actor whose talent and work I greatly admire. I will see if at some point I can post the original version, but the link above to the published one will have to do for now.