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When breaking the news equals breaking the interviewee

PUBLISHED: 11:48 18 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 01 July 2010

Stacia Briggs

The rise of the shouty reporter, why vegetarians shouldn't miss bacon and beating Sir Ian McKellen at being mistaken as a tramp.

In my line of work, there's very little cause for aggressive reporting.

On occasion, you may have to ask the same question several times, although nine times out of 10 this will be because the person you're interviewing is deaf or using a mobile phone behind a lead wall. The remaining one time is when you forget you've already asked the question in the first place.

The technique of interviewing someone without shouting over them, refusing to let them answer questions, persecuting them, ridiculing them or adding your own bias into the equation is dreadfully antiquated. I should get with the programme.

The next time I interview someone about a healthcare postcode lottery, for example, I could just start bellowing: 'It'd be easier for the British taxpayer if you just died, wouldn't it?' every time they mentioned injustice. Then I could get a job on Sky News.

Kay Burley, of Sky News, is one of the worst offenders, having long since mistaken 'breaking the news' for 'breaking the interviewee'.

She's like Paxman with PMT, the thin-lipped, shrimp-eyed offspring of the Daily Mail and the Ice Queen of Narnia (genuinely, look at her features. They are trying to fade back into her face to disassociate themselves from her).

This week, Burley questioned the motives of 38 Degrees campaign group director David Babbs, who joined thousands of protesters lobbying for electoral reform outside Local Government House, in London.

Keen to outline the consequences of a coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, he was constantly interrupted by a rabid Kay.

“Your views are not going to sway the people that are talking behind closed doors,” she sneered, “the public have voted for a hung parliament. We've got exactly what we voted for, so you marching down past Westminster today will make no difference.”

She added: “Why don't you just go home. Why don't you go home and watch it on Sky News?”

It must be said that Mr Babbs was ill-equipped to deal with this line of questioning and simply smiled nervously while trying to nudge a word in edgeways through a hairline crack in a wall of solid bile.

The rabid reporting somewhat tempered the huge and beneficial publicity for 38 Degrees - a bit like being offered an ice-cream in a shop that only sells two flavours: petrol and urine.

While Babbs didn't bite, the hecklers did. Later in the afternoon, Burley interviewed a polling expert and in the background, chants of: “Sack Kay Burley! Watch the BBC! Sky News is s***!” could be heard.

He'd probably learned the 'shout as someone else speaks' technique from Kay herself.

Other notable Burley barrackings have included an interview with radio host James O'Brien, who criticised Frank Lampard (Burley has a child with Frank Lampard's agent) and another with Peter Andre in which she reduced him to tears by asking how he'd feel if his ex-wife's new husband wanted to adopt Andre's two children.

Her tour de force, however, came when she interviewed Pamela Wright, the partner of Steve Wright who was convicted of killing five prostitutes in Ipswich “Do you think if you'd had a better sex life, he wouldn't have done this?” she asked.

Take notes, ladies, if you're not putting out on demand, there's a chance your partner might get bored enough to go and kill some prostitutes - and IT'LL ALL BE YOUR FAULT, BECAUSE KAY SAYS SO.

The desire to stick a reporting oar in isn't confined to Burley: her colleague Adam Boulton is another klaxon gobbed reporter who appears to have forgotten the difference between breaking and making the news.

His very public spat with Alastair Campbell about whether or not he was impartial was an internet sensation, showcasing his ability to turn bright red, lose the plot and gesticulate wildly while defending the fact that he always acted reasonably.

The logical conclusion to all this egotistical posturing is to have an 'interview-off' between Burley and Boulton in which they race against the clock to psychologically strip down their rival until all that remains is a shallow, weeping husk wearing an ear-piece.

The winner gets to be interviewed by Paxman.

Bacon is, singularly, the bane of vegetarian's lives.

If I had a pound for every incredulous meat-eater who asked me: 'but don't you miss bacon?' as if I'd just informed them that I'd given up oxygen for Lent, I'd have enough to buy 60 micro pigs and keep them as pets.

Of course I don't miss bacon: I am a vegetarian. As I remember it, from the dim and distant past when I ate meat, it's very much like flesh-flavoured chewing gum.

And if I did really miss bacon, I'd eat it. It's not as if I've signed a Faustian pact that will force me to cough up diabolical favours to Lucifer if I suddenly change my mind and start eating meat. I don't like meat. I don't miss it. Stop asking.

Yet another reason not to miss bacon has materialised this week, a new bacon-flavoured syrup designed to add a meaty tang to coffee. I'll give you a moment to savour that sentence.

Torani Bacon Syrup offers people too lazy to chew the option of drinking their bacon.

“Bacon enthusiasts will recognise the same savoury, meaty flavour as authentic bacon in this salty, sweet syrup,” says the blurb.

“Torani Bacon adds a savoury bacon flavour to cocktails, lattes, sauces and more.”

I hold Heston Blumenthal responsible for this kind of nonsense: forget bringing home the bacon, bringing it up will be far more likely.

It's not often that I can say I've got something in common with Sir Ian McKellen, but this week he too was mistaken as a tramp.

Many, many years ago, just after I'd had my nose pierced in a revoltingly dingy basement in Leeds, I came over slightly peculiar (they used a NEEDLE, all right?) and had to sit down in the street to gather my thoughts - and my blood, in a tissue.

Wearing what can only be described as a bunch of old rags, because I was 'alternative' and shunned the conventions of clothes that didn't look as if they'd been prised off the corpse of an 87-year-old man, a passer-by took one look at me and gave me two 50ps.

I was too weak to protest. That's my story, anyway.

This week, Sir Ian was in rehearsals for balls-achingly dull play Waiting for Godot in Australia when he took a break wearing his tramp costume.

“I crouched by the stage door of the Comedy Theatre, getting some air, my bowler hat at my feet and, seeing an unkempt old man down on his luck, a passer-by said 'need some help, brother?' and put a dollar in my hat,” he said.

Sir Ian didn't give the cash back, either, and I bet he hadn't just had a ring rammed through his nostril.

On another note, sitting through a Costessey High School A-level student performance of Waiting for Godot remains one of the lowest points of my entire life.

Godot never showed up. I expect someone phoned him during the interval and told him how bloody awful the play was.

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