Ben Naparstek and Doogie Howser

PhotoIt’s okay to make the comparison above, because I am merely quoting chair Guy Somerset’s introductory remarks about the wunderkid of interviewing, Ben Naparstek.  He himself gets very tired of all the focus being on his age (he’s 24), but truth told it really is astonishing that he has managed to do so much in such a short time, and so incredibly well (particularly given that it has taken me 187 years to even do my first interview).

Beginning his journalistic and interviewing career at the tender age of 15, and with hundreds of interviews with dazzlingly famous people since then, Ben is now the editor of the Australian magazine The Monthly.  He is well-spoken, erudite, and solemnly serene.

He’s here talking about his recently released book, Ben Naparstek: In Conversation, a collection of 40 interviews with, as the blurb says, “the famous, the difficult, and the sometimes downright elusive”.  Many of the names he’s talking about are unfamiliar to me, particularly the names of other journalists and editors, but there are many nodding heads in the room, and I figure it’s just me being uneducated, and clearly not widely-read. Perhaps because of this, I find myself strangely mesmerised by Guy Somerset’s rather daring stripe-y socks,  and I resolve to ask Richard if he has fared better with the names.

I do, however, manage to take away a few gems for future thought – that the ethics of interviewer-interviewee relationships are immutable; that fact-checking is vital; that interviews should never be ‘friendly’, but always focused on delivering the outcome; and that the purpose of an interview is never to impress the interviewee with your own knowledge, wit, social ability or fashion sense (just as well, really, from my point of view!).

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