Barbara Walters’ Tip on Interviewing: For Heaven’s Sake, Listen!
When Barbara Walters spoke to Drew’s Baldwin Scholars on April 3, she opened up about everything from her favorite interview subjects to the fact that Fidel Castro once made her a grilled cheese sandwich.
Walters spoke on campus as the 2014 Thomas H. Kean Lecturer, the final lecture in the 2013-14 Drew Forum series. But before she gave her evening speech, she took questions from students for nearly an hour, on topics ranging from U.S. involvement in other countries to how she prepares for an interview.
The prolific television journalist and co-host of The View has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon and many world leaders. She advised students to warm up their interview subjects with good leading questions, including “Tell me about your childhood” or “What is the biggest misconception about you.”
She warned students, Don’t get caught so caught up in asking questions that you miss what the interview subject said. “For heaven’s sakes, listen,” she emphasized, adding that the Dalai Lama and actress Katherine Hepburn are among her all-time favorite interviews.
Walters first began working in television news in the early 1960s as a writer for CBS. It took her years of hard work to become a co-host of The Today Show and the first woman to anchor the network news.
Because of chauvinism, said she was forbidden from asking hard questions or the first questions in an interview, and could not be called a “co-host” with her male counterpart, something she insisted upon after he retired. “When I go down in history it will be for ‘co-host,’” she said. “I have always believed you have to fight the big fight.”
Though 24-hour news channels and the Internet have changed the way people get news, she said she still watches the evening news at the end of each day, but laments that the hard news portions have gotten smaller because there is more of a push to make the news “fun.”
She told students it doesn’t matter if they get news from newspapers, iPads or televisions, “As long as you have some idea of what’s going on.”
She advised college students to take a lesson from her grandmother and to fully participate in whatever they undertake, “Follow your bliss. Most people don’t. It takes a long time to find your bliss.”
She reflected on her career, “There’s something new happening every day and the fact you can be a part of it. I think about some of the things I’ve been able to witness. The fact you could participate and see what’s happening, it’s so exciting.”—Liz Moore