It's my story: helping care-experienced young people give effective media interviews

Advice for people speaking to the media about personal issues

This handout can be printed directly from the screen or downloaded as a PDF file here (41kb PDF file)

It is your choice whether or not you talk to journalists about your personal experiences. The following notes may help you to reach this decision.

Types of publication

Specialists and broadsheets

Different newspapers, magazines and television programmes have different audiences, so they have different news agendas.

A journalist from a specialist social work magazine or a broadsheet newspaper (that’s the larger newspapers like ‘The Guardian’ or ‘The Independent’) is more likely to write a detailed, in-depth article. They may want to use some of your words as part of this article. Or they may want to write about your personal experiences to go alongside the article. They may be prepared to use first names only or to disguise your identity.

Tabloids and popular magazines

Tabloid newspapers (that’s the smaller newspapers like ‘The Sun’ or ‘The Mirror’) tend to write shorter, more sensational stories. They reach many people, so can be a good way to get a message across. Tabloid newspapers, women’s magazines and certain types of television programmes are very keen on ‘human interest’ stories where individuals speak about their own experiences.

They usually want this person to use their full name and agree to be photographed. (Some magazines have a policy of only allowing real names to be used, to ensure that the journalist isn’t making up the story.) But there are exceptions and some may be happy to disguise your identity. It’s always worth asking.

Broadcast media

Radio

Radio can be very powerful because as listeners hear you speaking they tend to focus on your words and your feelings – and it encourages them to use their imagination to put themselves in your situation. 

Radio programmes are often prepared to let people disguise their identities or change their names. Radio can feel safer and more anonymous than television – for the obvious reason that they can’t see you. (But be aware that people who know you are still likely to recognise your voice unless it is altered in some way.)

Television

Television is also very powerful but for slightly different reasons. It’s easier for the viewer to understand you and your experiences because they can see and hear you. But remember there are lots of different programmes. You could be asked to give a comment for a news piece (which might be just 15 seconds long), to appear on a chat show like ‘Trisha’, or to take part in a documentary which is made over many months.

Most TV programmes want to identify you, but if you have something very personal to say  they may consider letting you be anonymous(for example, people speaking about rape often have their identities disguised on television). For this they may film just the outline of your shadow or get an actor to speak your words.

Live or pre-recorded?

Some radio and television interviews are live (happening as you speak) and some interviews are pre-recorded (perhaps days or even months before they are broadcast). People often prefer pre-records because they say live interviews will make them nervous. But remember when you are speaking live you have full control over what you are saying. In a pre-record the journalist will have to edit your words down to make them fit the length of the programme.

Programmes are often very short – a journalist may have to fit the opinions of ten or twelve different people into a 25-minute programme. This is a good reason to try and keep your main messages short and to the point.

Deciding whether to give an interview

You should bear the following points in mind when deciding whether to give an interview:

When giving an interview

Being clear about your boundaries

Staying in control during the interview

General points about interviews