One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people. The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.
In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.
Jane Wakefield is a technology reporter on BBC News online and radio covering the impact of technology on human society.
What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the tech industry in 2019?
My biggest hope is that tech giants like Facebook and Google listen to their audiences and realise that people do not want targeted advertising or personalised experiences, or better interactions or however else they want to dress up the constant acquisition of users’ data.
What they want is to have control over their information and an honest relationship with corporations so that they understand exactly what contract they are entering into with these companies which increasingly control all aspects of our lives.
My biggest fear is that the tech industry will not listen to this growing chorus of discontent
What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?
I loved watching the Cambridge Analytica scandal unravel and enjoyed my part in reporting on it, from tracking down the headquarters of Canadian firm Aggregate IQ to listening into committee hearings to unpicking how Facebook and others have responded. It felt like a seminal moment and I believe there is much more to come.
Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?
That has to go to one of the TED fellows and it would be hard to choose but I’ll go for journalist Olga Yurkova who has set up a tool, StopFake, to prevent the spread of fake news in Ukraine. Or else Gray Benoist who set up a coding firm in Los Angeles specifically employing autistic people.
What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?
Self-drive cars — it’s unlikely to come on in leaps and bounds but we are reaching a turning point when we will see drivers increasingly hand over control to their cars. I personally love the idea of not having to worry about driving, as it is not one of my favourite activities.
What was your favourite tech experience of 2018?
Going to Tanzania to see how drone technology in remote Lake Victoria might be able to help people there and how Africa might succeed in getting cargo drones off the ground ahead of America or Europe.
What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?
Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?
How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?
They need to have a compelling story, propelled by how tech is helping make life better rather than tech for tech’s sake.