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Dr Brooke Magnanti on BBC Hardtalk – Must See for Anyone Involved in News

October 5, 2012

The BBC’s interview program Hardtalk has what is by far the industry’s most skillful research team. I am constantly amazed at the depth and knowledge of the questions presented by the show’s very capable hosts to the politicians, heads of state, and business,media and sports personalities that have appeared over the years on the program. Indeed, at times I couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of the more ill-prepared guests on the show, while they flustered and strained to come up with adequate responses to the piercing questions posed to them. This is not a program for anyone looking for a Piers Morgan-like fluff and feel-good half hour.

While it is always a pleasure to watch well informed and skillful hosts skewering ill-prepared politicians, it is a rare treat to watch an episode where the guest is as well prepared, knowledgeable and every bit the expert as Hardtalk’s team of researchers. Such was the joy of watching the episode where the amazingly well-informed Dr Brooke Magnanti was interviewed by the equally well prepared Katya Adler.

This was by far one of the best handled half-hour interviews I’ve ever had the privilege of watching, especially considering the controversial subject matter, prostitution. I consider it a must-watch 30 minutes of television for anyone whose job involves talking with the media. It is a text book example of a well-prepared, skillful and knowledgeable expert defending a point of view that would be challenging under the best of circumstances.

So, who is Dr Magnanti? Her Wikipedia entry makes for a very interesting read. A research scientist who worked as a call girl while completing her doctoral studies, her blog about her experience in the sex-industry was published in two books, and adapted into a television program, “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”. Her book, “The Sex Myth”, dealt with issues in sexuality studies and research, and the effects the research has had on political discussions of the adult entertainment industry. The Hardtalk team could not have picked a better informed individual for a program to discuss the topic of prostitution.

The program’s host, Katya Adler, was impressive in the ease with which she quoted numerous in-depth and prominent experts, research and studies. And it was remarkable to watch how Dr Brooke Magnanti effortlessly handled each question and point, and displayed remarkable knowledge of the studies and experts quoted during the interview. Few interview techniques are as effective as being as familiar with the other side’s research and how they came to their conclusions, as the authors of the studies themselves. By the end of the episode, viewers could not help but come away with the impression of Dr Magnanti as an authority, a scientist very well versed in a very difficult and controversial subject matter, and an expert always ready with a well informed response to the main pillars of the opposing side’s viewpoints; someone whose ability to defend her own point of view is greatly enhanced by the depth of her knowledge of the other side’s most prominent research.

Anyone who has had even the faintest notion of being involved on either side of a television interview should use this Hardtalk episode as a case study, of a program with an impressively well prepared host and an equally knowledgeable and self-confident guest. Interviews in which the knowledge and intelligence of the participants are out of balance leaves one cringing in embarrassment on the part of the ill-prepared party (see Barbara Walters’ interview with the hopelessly inept Bashar Assad, which went so badly for the Syrian dictator, his deputy FM was reduced to accusing ABC of malignant editing of the aired interview). It is rare to see the expert knowledge exhibited on that particular Hardtalk program, and even more of a rarity to see it wielded by both the guest and host.

Categories: BBC, Main Stream Media
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