Dutch TV interviewers need Paxman’s balls

February 3, 2008

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Some of you might want to sit down before reading the following sentence, which conotains two shocking revelations. Ready? Here we go. Natalee Holoway is dead, and Pauw & Witteman are totally rubbish interviewers. I know, it’s shocking. Deep breath in, slow breath out.

Of course, a verse and song confession by the main suspect in the Natalee Holloway disappearence wrapped up in a two hour documentary has millions of TV viewers in The Netherlands and the US stock up on extra beer and crisps. Who doesn’t like a true murder mystery solved on television by a man who can best be introduced to those who don’t know him as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and…Jeremy Paxman. Well, maybe not the great Paxman, but you get my drift – De Vries is a pretty crafty investigator who solves cases the police has long given up on, and a bit of a bulldog when it comes to questioning people on television.

Talking of Paxman and interview bulldogs, it’s the second revelation by De Vries about the quality of the interviewing by Pauw & Witteman that gets my attention, despite the shocking, but hardly unexpected news that Natalee Holloway is not alive, almost three years after her disapearence. De Vries’ likened the manner in which two of the most prominent media figures interviewed Van der Sloot to two schoolboys interviewing their football heroe for the school paper. I would say that I have seen even weaker interviews by the two gentlemen heading this program, so it doesn’t interest me because it’s news in any way. Far from it, it interests me because De Vries speaks out about something that I often find myself moaning about. 

There a too many Dutch TV interviewers who couldn’t extract the way to church from a vicar. Pauw & Witteman is a textbook example of Dutch interviewers making conversation, rather than getting the truth out of their interviewees. For those who understand Dutch, the weekly Q&A with the prime minister is a rich source for examples of how not to interview. Take the one a few days ago, where one of Hollands’ most respected political reporters Ferry Mingelen chats to PM Balkenende about the uneas in some quarters of the government about the airing of 70’s porn classic Deep Troath by public broadcasters. Oh, and of course questions had to be raised about a subject of even greater magnitude: Queen Beatrix, whose quickly forgotten speeches on safe subject matter such as unity and tolerance seem to touch more and more on political sensitivities of the day. Anyway, all PM Blakenende had to do to avoid answering questions, was just to keep mumbling away til time ran out. Needless to say, the interviewer did not interrupt the PM’s meaningless words when it mattered.

So, Jeroen Pauw, Paul Witteman, Ferry Mingelen et al, if you guys just want to chat to people, why not open a pub? Want to interview people properly? Watch BBC News Night now and again, you guys might learn something. Well, they might not actually. Could it be that Jeremy just has bigger balls? Judging by his plea to Marks & Spencer for more support from his undies, one might conclude so.

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