During a media training session the other day we were asked to name some of the most disastrous interviews on TV.
As you can imagine, there was no shortage of examples. The TV interview we chose to show was Peter Ward, the chief executive of the British Dental Association (BDA), being quizzed on ITV’s Tonight programme.
He had agreed to go on camera and answer questions about the safety – or otherwise – of mercury amalgam fillings. He looks comfortable enough to begin with but soon loses his grip and responds to the constant probing by throwing his arms in the air and uttering: “La, la, la, la, la, la – la, la, la, la, la!”
Mr Ward, who is smartly dressed in a suit and tie, then protests about the line of questioning. The reporter points out it’s what he agreed to but Mr Ward claims he has moved into other territory. After further disagreement, he gets up and walks over to the camera on his left and waves his hands in front of the lens.
Apology for his TV interview performance
Shortly after the programme was broadcast, Mr Ward issued an “unmitigated” apology to BDA members for his performance.
He wrote: “Many of you will have watched the Tonight programme ‘What’s in your mouth?’. For those who did (and indeed those who didn’t) I must offer my full and unmitigated apologies for my performance.
“The scenes that were broadcast represent a small fraction of the interview that did not follow the sequence I expected and caught me by surprise. That is, however, no excuse for the spoiling tactics I adopted on the spur of the moment.
“To my colleagues, I would like to say that I am truly sorry.”
Some argue it was cruel of Tonight to show the embarrassing clips, but ultimately Mr Ward only had himself to blame.
Mr Ward hadn’t done his homework so he suffered the consequence. As he learned to his cost, if you don’t prepare adequately for media interviews, you risk a car crash happening to you.
By losing his cool, he only highlighted the problems he was having, made himself look stupid and lost the sympathy of the audience. Whatever the provocation, it is important to stay calm during an interview.