An Interview with Peter Hitchens

An Interview with Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens is a journalist I have followed for some time. I remember an extract of his coming up in my AS Level Politics exam on First Past The Post, many years ago now. I had watched his Oxford Union debate on free speech and decided that he would be a perfect individual to interview on such a contentious issue. Getting hold of him was a case of ringing up the Mail on Sunday and asking for his email, after all, Peter is very private when it comes to sharing contact details on twitter. He was very professional and quick on replying, and very generously gave up his time to speak with me.

The question formulation prior to the interview was difficult at the time. I wanted to make sure that the questions were open enough to encourage free-flow dialogue, but at the same time I wanted to ensure it was concise. The aim was for it to be around 10 minutes once broadcast. The questions I decided to go with were putting Peter’s argument under scrutiny, which felt to me like the best way to go about the interview. I studied and learnt about Peter’s arguments and many of the counter arguments that are currently discussed in the debate on free speech, such as safe spaces and offense. At times it felt a bit daunting to scrutinise, particularly due to Peter’s long-standing reputation and well-thought out points. But this is something I have learnt is a necessary part of being a journalist. I also wanted to have the Guild’s opinion broadcast, mainly as a counter to Peter’s arguments. I found a piece written by the Guild shortly after Peter’s visit to Liverpool in 2017. I did email the Guild for a reply, but they didn’t answer unfortunately. So instead, Kitty Ward, my fellow colleague, read out the response by the Guild after the interview. I thought this was fair and well-reasoned.

The actual interview was a little daunting at first. I was very nervous. But Peter was very polite and answered every question, and when I mean answered, he actually directly answered the question! The interview ended after about 12 minutes. I was glad that I made sure it was kept to an appropriate time. This made the editing process much simpler. I decided to cut out my parts of the interview and ask the questions on air, and then play each answer afterwards. This made it seem more organic and concise than simply not editing the interview at all. I was pleased with how it came across on air. There was always the worry that after so much preparation, something would go wrong! I am also extremely pleased with how many listens to the interview has had on Soundcloud. I decided to cut the interview from the two hour broadcast and upload it to Soundcloud as a single segment. This upload alone currently has 860 listens on Soundcloud.

Overall this interview was a wonderful experience. I learnt the process of getting in touch and arranging an interview with a prominent journalist. As well as the importance of the formulation of questions, which was arguably the toughest task of this experience. In the future I think it would be beneficial for me to have made sure I managed my time better in regard to the time and date of the interview. The interview was delayed a little due to uncertainty about when I wanted to do the interview, and when Peter was free to do so. Next time I would be more precise and give more clarification to the interviewee regarding the time and date of the interview. In addition, I would ensure that I countered some of the points made by the interviewee during the interview.

Link to the interview: https://soundcloud.com/thepoliticshour2018/peter-hitchens-on-free-speech-at-universities

Charlie Millward

Featured Image: Peter Hitchens debating at Sussex College, University of Cambridge, England. Courtesy of Nigel Luckhurst.

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