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Frost, Nixon and Me: The Day I Met David Frost

Posted: 02/09/2013 00:00

I'll never forget the time I interviewed Sir David Frost.

As far as beacons of world class journalism go, America had Walter Cronkite and we had Sir David. And then they had Sir David too.

It was in 2008 at the London Film Festival when I got to talk to Sir David. He was in town promoting Frost/Nixon, the brilliant Ron Howard movie about Sir David's interview with Richard Nixon, the disgraced former US President.

Coming from a hard news background and now working in entertainment journalism, I'm very lucky that I've had the honour over the years of interviewing some of the most well known and well respected people on the planet in their respective fields. This, however, was a whole different kettle of fish.

Any journalist who has to interview another journalist - especially a world renowned universally respected and admired one such as Sir David - is under pressure.

For me, getting a few minutes with him was intimidating enough but to get a few minutes to talk to Sir David about not only one of the defining moments in his career but also one of the greatest and most important moments in journalistic history, TV history, political history as well as just history itself full stop was one of the most daunting but exciting moments of my career.

That said, it was also a real trouser browner. You never want to look like an idiot in front of your peers especially the ones you have nothing but admiration and respect for.

Aside from that, how the hell do you pick the brain of one of the greatest interviewers of all time without potentially looking like a dick? Mess this up and, although they will probably (hopefully) forget about it, you will kick yourself forever. You'll have blown it.

In journalistic terms, getting to interview someone like Sir David, it is like given the chance to sit at the right hand of God.

As experienced as I was even then, and as confident I was that I could do the job, I felt a bit like the village idiot being sent to interview Yoda.

The last thing I wanted to happen was a repeat of the time I bumped into George Lucas and the first thing to fall out of my mouth was, "I love Star Wars!". Awful, just awful...

Thankfully, it went well. It went better than well to be honest. Sir David couldn't have been nicer, more interesting or more engaging. I could have chatted with him for hours rather than the few minutes I actually had.

After the interview I asked him about what I could do to be better at what I do. So, what are the best pieces of advice he gave me?

1. Know what you're talking about.

2. Find the story. Make the news.

3. Don't just hear - Listen. And control the pauses.

4. People will tell you want they want you to know. Your job is getting them to tell you what you need to know.

5. You are a mouthpiece for the people so ask the questions they want answered and take it forward from there. That is what you are there for.

This may all seem blindingly obvious but it is so easy to forget these simple things - or to just become lazy and let them fall by the wayside.

I may never have my own Frost/Nixon moment, although there is still time, but I am always grateful that I got to ask him about his.

Best of all, as the interview came to an end he said he liked my style, he wished me well and said he looked forward to us meeting again.

Sadly, we never did.

Sir David Frost was an irreplaceable and incomparable talent. Among many things he was a charming man, an erudite man, a funny man, a passionate man and a surprisingly humble man.

He was a legend. But we know that already.

He was Sir David Frost.

 

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