Reporters Share Tips on Celebrity Interviewing

A German correspondent once stood up in a Beverly Hills hotel conference room and asked Sean Connery, on satellite from Marbella, Spain, for an assistant job. A freelancer kicked off a roundtable discussion with actor Peter Sarsgaard by tying his name to the SARS epidemic.

There are just two examples of poor celebrity interviewing FBLA has witnessed first-hand over the years. Another line that is often crossed by entertainment journalists is the one involving personal autograph requests. But freelance Las Vegas journalist Vincent Schilling, one of a number of experts interviewed by Kristen Fischer for her January 3rd piece Under Pressure: Nailing the Celebrity Interview, thinks it’s OK to tactfully express admiration for an interview subject.

“Why not?” asks Schilling. When he interviewed Wayne Newton, he let the singer know that he was a fan of Mr. Las Vegas. “Sure, there is a gray line between idol worship and professional, but my job is fun. Being a stick in the mud stinks.” He says saying something pleasant or joking a bit in a lighthearted manner helps break down some walls, which can lead to a great discussion.

Fischer also culls pointers from author Jessica McCann, filmmaker (and former journalist) Nelson George, TIME contributor Kenneth Miller, Seattle freelancer Jane Hodges, writer Brad Holbrook and Kansas-based Heather Larson.