Last Thursday, Jim Milatello came to talk to UB journalism students about the importance of interviewing as well as offer some advice for the future. Jim spent 29 years in the Associated Press as a sportscaster. This calling brought him around the world to commentate on events such as the AFC Championship, Kentucky Derby and even the winter Olympics.
Jim’s started his talk on Thursday by reminiscing about his past and how on earth he ended up where he is today. Attending three different colleges, Jim had difficulty figuring out what he wanted to do and ended up pursuing psychology. Now this wasn’t the path of a dream he had, as Jim puts it, rather he was merely going through the motions of completing requirements the college had for him and what he found interesting at the time. Jim still marvels at how he can do what he does for AP. In broadcast news, you need to get the point across as quickly and succinctly as possible. If you can’t, then people are going to switch the station. This rang true for me and also made sense for print news. If your story isn’t interesting and doesn’t grab someone’s attention, then they’ll just turn the page. It was very enlightening to have Mr. Milatello here to talk, as he had much advice to give. He left us sniggering as we left class with a comment he made and I think it only fair to close with it: “So, what sucked about all this?”said “My degree got me in the door. I’m still trying to figure out why I do what I do.”
After that short walk through the past, Jim became more serious about interviewing and what’s important in the news today. Interviewing is key, as we’ve been told and Jim was a firm believer as well. When interviewing there is an assumption of extensive research on your topic said Jim. The timeframe and focus of your interview are also key. Jim offered the example of Rachel Madow of MSNBC who he finds to be very interesting because of her equitable style of interviewing. Rather than yell over her subject, as many do today, she gives due time for them to state their case. A great piece of advice was “Nobody will hear the question…It’s whether you can get the answer out of them” said Jim.
In the end, Jim stated the sad truth that “People aren’t going to listen for longer than thirty seconds” to anything