Ian Wylie is a journalist with a long and excellent career in the world of communication. He has written about television for the past 30 years and experienced many historic events. As a member of the Parliamentary Press Lobby for 25 years, Ian covered several general elections and helped lead MEN Media coverage at Westminster of the MPs’ expenses scandal. He also covered the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks in London, hundreds of Old Bailey and High Court cases, attended the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana and the funerals of both Diana and the Queen Mother. Ian Wylie was also one of just 28 journalists chosen from around the world to attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Until 2009 Ian Wylie was the London Editor & TV Editor of the Manchester Evening News / MEN Media. Currently, he works as a freelance journalist and TV specialist for a range of UK national newspapers and works with ITV on the interviews for many of their drama press packs / production notes. Ian Wylie has the right combination of talent, passion, intuition and integrity. He is a person that is not just skillful in finding and telling a story, he makes sure that he has the facts straight and that he is both informative and entertaining to read. He is a professional who knows all the ins and outs of the most outstanding British television series.
– What can you teach us about the art of the interview?
“The obvious things. Do your homework and research all aspects of the person you are going to interview along with the relevant background. Ideally you should have a good idea of the answer to every question before you ask it. But also be ready to be surprised. Then really listen to what someone is saying and be prepared to stray from your list of questions to respond and explore any lines of interest. I try to treat an interview as a conversation with another human being. No matter how ‘important’ they might be, they are still just that – another human being. Then report what was said accurately and fairly, down to the last comma. You are sitting there, basically, on behalf of the public and you have a duty both to them and the interviewee to get it right.”
“I try to treat an interview as a conversation with another human being.
No matter how ‘important’ they might be,
they are still just that -
another human being.”
– What has been your most challenging interview and why?
“The ‘next’ interview with an actor, actress, writer, director, producer or whoever is always challenging because you are never totally sure in advance how it may turn out. Aside from that, there have been many challenging interviews over the years, including talking to those who have lost loved ones in sometimes violent, traumatic or simply very sad circumstances.”
– Which have been the best British television drama series in recent times and why?
“Far too many to mention in full, but my personal favourites include The Durrells, Happy Valley, Life On Mars, Line Of Duty, Unforgotten, Downton Abbey, Code Of A Killer, Ashes To Ashes, Cilla, Poldark, The Fall, Broadchurch, The Hour and Mrs Biggs. Why? Great scripts, storytelling, cast, performance, direction, photography, location, set design, music and all the other crafts, such as lighting, sound, costume, hair and make-up, that play essential roles within a huge team effort to produce a hit TV drama series.”
“The ‘next’ interview with an actor, actress, writer, director, producer or whoever is always challenging because you are never totally sure in advance how it may turn out.”
– Which actors and actresses are truly bringing something new to the world of performance do you think?
“It’s always a pleasure to interview an often relatively unknown young actor or actress near the outset of their careers when they have been given a role and are seizing their chance to make a mark. Having been covering TV for the best part of 35 years, it’s then been a joy to chart their subsequent development over time. Keeley Hawes, Sheridan Smith, Tom Hollander, Nicola Walker and Joanne Froggatt are just five examples of that and also qualify as still bringing something new to the world of performance.
“Again, there are far too many to mention but in terms of other ‘new-ish’ faces, I like the work of Inspector George Gently, Hebburn and Mum actress Lisa McGrillis, Catherine Steadman (soon to be seen on screen again with Sam Neill and Max Irons in Tutankhamun), young Milo Parker in The Durrells, Sharon Rooney (currently on screen in the UK in Brief Encounters with the also excellent Sophie Rundle, Angela Griffin and Penelope Keith), Stefanie Martini, currently filming the title role in ITV’s Prime Suspect prequel Tennison, and watch out for Cel Spellman in the new series of Cold Feet. While the already mentioned Penelope Keith is just one example of many older actresses and actors able to truly bring us something new – with Vera’s wonderful Brenda Blethyn another name that springs to mind.”
– What has positively and negatively affected the subject matter in British entertainment?
“Each to their own but I’m not a fan of reality TV and think most of it is a waste of time. But, of course, it is relatively cheap to produce and attracts a young audience. The huge explosion in the number of channels hasn’t done a great deal to improve the quality of television. Way back in 1992 Bruce Springsteen released a song called, ’57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)’ Today it’s almost impossible to count how many TV channels there are. But in the main his sentiment still holds. On the plus side, extra investment in television drama means there is actually usually always something well worth watching “on’ – with ITV, BBC and Sky at the forefront.”
– What are the factors that differentiate great UK productions from outstanding American television?
“I decided to put your question to the actor Philip Glenister, currently filming a second season of Outcast in America. Also, of course, well known for many top British TV dramas, including Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. His answer mirrors what I think:
“There aren’t any. If you’ve got a great TV drama, it doesn’t matter what country it comes from. If it’s great drama, it’s great drama.”
“Far too many to mention in full, but my personal favourites include
The Durrells, Happy Valley, Life On Mars, Line Of Duty, Unforgotten,
Downton Abbey, Code Of A Killer, Ashes To Ashes, Cilla, Poldark,
The Fall, Broadchurch, The Hour and Mrs Biggs.”
– Does freedom of expression end where the editorial line begins? To you, what is objectivity?
“I was taught to be objective and impartial from the very first day at journalism college, aged 18, and have never forgotten that. In terms of news reporting it is crucial. To be fair to each side of the argument, report accurately with balance and right of reply. It’s then for the readers to make their own minds up.
“One of the most powerful television dramas of my lifetime is Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough. I can still recall him speaking at the first press preview of that film in 1996 and the reaction of the families after the end titles. At a time when their fight for justice was far from over.
“It was to be a further 20 years on from that screening that an inquest jury investigating the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Sheffield in 1989 recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. Also concluding the behaviour of supporters did not cause or contribute to what happened that day.
“I suppose you could say Jimmy had an “editorial line” and exercised his freedom of expression. But in doing so he was revealing the truth. That is television drama at its very best.”
“I was taught to be objective and impartial from the very first day
at journalism college, aged 18, and have never forgotten that"
Do you feel analytical and investigative journalism is being lost?
“With notable exceptions, yes. The inevitable result of newspaper and other media companies cutting their editorial budgets again and again with editorial jobs lost. Death by a thousand cuts. Often the most talented and experienced journalists are targetted for the axe because they tend to be the highest paid and so produce the greatest financial savings on a balance sheet. Over time newsrooms have lost a significant proportion of staff – with freelance budgets slashed or cut entirely. Leaving smaller numbers of people to do more and more.
"The inevitable result of newspaper and other media companies cutting their editorial budgets again and again with editorial jobs lost. Death by a thousand cuts."
“One of the first casualties is analytical and investigative journalism because it takes time and resources…and that costs money. There are some exceptions. But we live in a world now where far too often journalists are trapped in an office and reduced to producing online “clickbait” with the aim of drawing eyes to their company’s website. Worse still, this is often non-original second or third-hand material being re-cycled from somewhere else. Literally copied out with no thought of checking the facts or writing any original material. You only have to do a Google News search on, say, the latest ‘celebrity story’ to see how online media appears to be eating itself.”
“But we live in a world now where far too often journalists are trapped
in an office and reduced to producing online “clickbait”
with the aim of drawing eyes to their company’s website.”
What do you try to express through your photography?