School Reporters have 'Five Minutes With' Jacqueline Wilson

  • 9 March 2012
  • From the section Home

When you spend your working life interviewing people it can be mildly disconcerting to be on the receiving end yourself.

This is what I felt when put on the spot by two Year 8 pupils during an interviewing "masterclass" I gave them for BBC News School Report.

I was preparing Rhiannon and Poppy for their interview with author and former Children's Laureate Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

Choosing one's words carefully with the camera watching is challenging! And of course what I hope to get from my guests when I interview them for Five Minutes With is the real them.

Equals

I explained to the girls how I treat my guests as equals but that that doesn't mean I don't have a lot of respect for what they've achieved in their often stellar careers.

It may sound trite but I try to create an atmosphere where I'm not talking to a celebrity or household name but to a person.

Fame can be impressive and even intimidating. Once you get behind it, though, what you find is often a regular man or woman with the same familiar hopes and fears as you or I.

Follow-up questions

Anyway, back to the girls. They were a little nervous but looking forward to meeting someone whose books they'd read.

I gave them a warm-up interview where I pretended to be Dame Jacqueline - "call me Jacqueline" the Dame told them later - and I imagined that she was an avid sky-diver.

I tipped the girls to react to any such revelations in the interview proper with appropriate follow-up questions.

Listen to answers

I come up with lots of set questions for my interviews and then attempt to commit them to memory. Asking a lot of wide-ranging questions is part of the fun and point of Five Minutes With.

But Jon Snow told me when I interviewed him that the real thing about interviewing is not asking questions but listening to answers. At which point I asked an entirely unrelated question. I've tried to learn my lesson.

After being taught how to operate the Five Minutes With clock - not easy as you have to flick the alarm switch up when the time runs out - the girls watched me have a go at interviewing Jacqueline.

Then, one of them clutching a School Report clipboard and the other the clock, it was their turn.

There was a slightly awkward silence as the cameraman got things ready so I suggested they try some small talk with their interviewee.

The interview itself was excellent but the School Report producer and I both thought the young interviewers might benefit from another go. Jacqueline kindly agreed and off they went again.

Round of applause

There was a real flow to the chat and things went brilliantly until my offstage gesticulation was misinterpreted and the interview brought to a premature end at four minutes instead of five!

The girls recovered and carried on and were met at the end with a round of applause.

An abiding memory of the interview was wishing that I'd asked some of the questions the girls asked. A dreadful feeling!

But well worth it to see the skill and speed with which two apparent novices had turned themselves into BBC interviewers!

School Report is an annual BBC project which helps young people make their own news reports for a real audience.