The Research Status of Clayman and Heritage's (2002) The News Interview

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The databases of three books with almost identical titles are examined in order to throw light on the theory of neutralistic professionalism of news interviewers and on the empirical logic of the most recent of the three: The news interview by Steven Clayman and John Heritage (2002). Instead of a theory of neutralism, a theory of perspectivity that applies to both interviewer and interviewee is presented. The logic of Clayman and Heritage's arguments is found wanting in a number of respects: (a) their treatment of TV and radio interviews as if they were identical; (b) their treatment of news interviews in the United States and Great Britain as essentially the same in practices and ground rules; (c) their inferences from isolated excerpts to the structure of the news interview itself; (d) their very concept of the news interview as “an interactional encounter between a journalist and one or more newsworthy public figures” (p. 1). Inaccuracies in their database make it unsatisfactory as support for a theory of neutralistic professionalism. Despite these limitations, Clayman and Heritage provide an excellent overview of the recent history of the news interview in the United States and Britain and a wealth of information about the local organization of news interviews.

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