Interview with an interviewer, part 4

November 01, 2011 | Interviewing, Podcasting

Question: Who is the most underrated interviewer in the business?

Answer: I would vote for Diane Rehm. I’m still surprised by how many people have not heard of The Diane Rehm Show or know of her work, despite her more than 30 years in public broadcasting. She won a George Foster Peabody Award in 2010 and interviews some of the biggest names in politics, business, literature, academia and other fields.

Q: What makes her a good interviewer?

Talk-show host Diane Rehm

A: For starters, she’s one of the few interviewers these days who insists that her guests treat one another with civility and not speak over the top of one another. The Peabody Award committee called her show the “gold standard for civic, civil discourse.” The National Journal called Diane Rehm “the class act of the talk radio world.” She also prepares very thoroughly for her interviews, which is no small feat considering that she does two hour-long shows every weekday. They are carried on many National Public Radio stations.

Q: Any other tips we can pick up from Diane Rehm’s interviewing style?

A: Two things in particular, beyond what I’ve already mentioned. First, she speaks in a very deliberate fashion. Her slow talking style – due at least in part to spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that causes the vocal cords constrict when they should be relaxed – calms guests and listeners alike. It also gives her guests and listeners time to actually absorb what she’s saying. Far too many radio and TV talk-show hosts and newscasters speak too quickly for listening audiences. Secondly, Diane regularly tells her guests, “give me an example,” which really helps flesh-out and build upon the answer they’ve just given. “Give me an example” is one of those magic interview questions, and it’s a regular part of Diane’s repertoire.

Q: How would you suggest radio listeners find The Diane Rehm Show on the dial?

A: Check the local lineup on your National Public Radio station. But you can also download free podcasts of her program every weekday, which is what I do because, like many people, I’m busy working during her live broadcast hours. You can subscribe to her podcasts on this web page.