Thoughts on the Interview Industry (I just made that up).
I was reading an article recently from an exHuffPost employee. I can’t remember why I was interested in the piece, more of a rant than an article, but the anonymous author said something that stuck with me. He (she?) said that the publication was pandering to rich people, focused on making money, and making Arianna Huffington’s friends look good.
I was struck with a flood of thoughts at the sentence.
You see, you will find no exposes in my work. I research, and interview celebrities, entrepreneurs, and influencers for my show, The Pursuit. From each monthly episode, I create a video clip and article for Entrepreneur and Success. I also write listicles and articles based on those interviews for LifeHack and EliteDaily and hopefully more in 2016. All of it is positive. All of it flatters the guests. This is for a few obvious reasons. I want to grow my show. To grow my show, I need to interview other great guests and the celebrity circle is small, my friends. News travels fast. I want to make the publicists I work with, who have other celebrity guests on their roster, happy. If the articles are positive, then the guest may actually share them with their millions of fans. They often don’t, because it seems braggy, which I totally understand. But these amazing guests usually do end up giving back support to myself and my show in return for all of the positive coverage.
So I had to ask myself, am I just pandering to rich people? Or maybe, more accurately, will people think I’m just pandering to rich people? Are all podcasters and show hosts just forming one big circle...all patting each others backs over and over? Should I be unearthing deep dark truths about today’s leaders? Should I be asking more hardball questions?
Here are a few thoughts I have, after pondering this issue for quite some time:
I am not called to be an investigative journalist. In fact, I coined a new phrase on my recently redesigned website, introducing myself as a “motivational journalist.” I aim to inspire & equip. I want to motivate my followers, make them laugh, and hopefully give them digestible, valuable insights. How does uncovering dirt on - or rehashing the mistakes of - today’s leaders accomplish that goal? It doesn’t.
Mad props to Arianna Huffington for building a giant platform from which she can make her friends look good if she so chooses. Now I realize they are a news outlet, so a more investigative approach is expected from them, but if she wants to use her influence to help out her friends’ businesses and causes, I really don’t have much beef with that. Podcasters have their friends as guests, heck even Ellen has her friends and favorite music artists on her show over and over. It’s her show! Furthermore, if Rant Writer wants a job, he or she better realize that yes, in fact, money makes the world go round. This is not news.
A synonym for pandering is brownnosing, which is now so totally obvious thanks to twitter. Just look at the mentions influencers get, with people pledging their love while pleading for an interview, a review, a blurb, an endorsement. It’s gross. The way for creators to stay genuine and not join the aforementioned circle is by preserving our own voice and our own mission. Which, by the way, is something that those who achieve lasting success always do well; stay true to themselves.
Personally, I do this by carefully choosing whom I interview. If I don’t jive with someone’s values and mission, no matter how big their reach or how cool a selfie with them would be, I won’t interview them. If I have some negative vibes after an interview, which I’m sure will happen, I won’t promote that person as much and I won’t have them back. I also have to accept that some people will think I’m just playing the game, having the “same old” famous guests on, sucking up to the people at the top. I have to shrug it off and let them think what they want, which is easy if I’m staying true to my convictions.
So I guess this post is a word of caution, a reminder to myself and to all of us who write, vlog, podcast, etc. We all want to grow, to reach more people, to achieve success and gain influence. But we have to fight the desire to grow at any cost. The cost is high. Readers will sniff out the phoney. Viewers will not come back. People will unsubscribe. We have a mission and a message to deliver to the world, which we can’t do while pandering.
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