Tom Bradby has said his relationship with Prince Harry was “not going to be affected by how I conduct an interview” following his win for interviewer of the year at the British Journalism Awards.
The broadcast made headlines around the world, and British Journalism Awards judges said the programme “has stood the test of time – and will continue to do so for, probably, years to come”.
‘I definitely wouldn’t want to do it every day’
Bradby told Press Gazette following his win that he had been up against “some ferociously brilliant competition”.
Asked which of his competitors he had thought had the best chance of winning, Bradby said: “I think Amol Rajan did an awful lot of very good interviews last year. I think Decca Aitkenhead is one of the greatest interviewers in the press. So I felt like, arguably, almost everyone else on the list had a better claim to it than me.”
BJA judges said Bradby’s scoop was “executed under tight deadlines with no editorial control and great professionalism despite the interviewer’s closeness to the subject” – a reference to his reported friendship with the prince.
Bradby said that closeness had been one of the “unique stresses” involved in putting the interview together.
“It’s obviously an interview that goes far and wide, and it’s a bit like when I made the Africa documentary [with Harry and wife Meghan],” he said. “You come home and you know that people have said something that’s going to go all over the world and be a little bit of history…
“I definitely wouldn’t want to do it every day. But obviously, one of the reasons you go into journalism is to break news that other people don’t have, and so it’s ultimately very rewarding, however stressful it might be at the time…
“Everyone knows that I know him quite well, so that’s a stress in the equation. And obviously it’s one of the world’s more controversial subjects, so that’s another massive stress in the equation.”
Bradby said that Harry’s book Spare, which was released two days after the interview broadcast, had been “incredibly revelatory”.
“One of the things that we didn’t know when we did the interview was whether we would be breaking the six million bombshells in this book on the world, or whether it would have leaked.”
Bradby said this uncertainty made planning the interview complicated: “There was so much information in the book and we were going to do an hour and a half interview. You don’t want to spend the whole hour and a half interview explaining what’s in the book and then asking questions about it, which is why we asked if they would give us audio clips, which just made that a bit easier…
“It’s the only time I think I’ve done an interview like that, where you’ve got no idea of the context in which it will land. That was actually the most complicated thing about it: are people going to have had this information for a week, and a week to digest it, or are we literally going to be telling it to them for the first time?”
‘If you can’t stand him, you didn’t think I was tough enough’
Asked how he tried to balance gaining access to notable figures with being a rigorous enough interviewer, Bradby said: “It’s a very complex situation, and relationship, as anyone would work out. And, you know, I have a high profile job in the British media. So making sure that I do a rigorous journalistic job is a non-negotiable factor in it.
“And to be fair to him [Harry], he never asked me what questions I was going to ask. We never really discussed that at all. Obviously, once I read the book, it was obvious that the interview was going to be primarily about the book because there were so many damn bombshells in the book that needed to be explored.
“So yeah, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t complicated. I definitely would not want to do it every day. But that’s the complication of journalism, right? You have to be close enough to get someone to trust you and rigorous enough to make sure that you try to represent the public who are ultimately the people you’re really there for.”
Some critics of Harry: The Interview argued Bradby did not achieve that balance. The Spectator’s Steerpike gossip column wrote at the time that “the reason Bradby always gets blockbuster interviews with the young royals is because he never lets the journalistic side get in the way of his pally relationship with the Windsors”. The Independent said Bradby was “never one to leave a boot unlicked”.
Press Gazette asked about Bradby’s response to the critics.
“People saw, in many cases, their own views reflected back at them,” he said. “If you can’t stand him, you didn’t think I was tough enough – if you really like him, you think I shouldn’t have asked the questions that I did. You’re never going to please everyone…
“That’s the other thing that’s complicated about doing an interview, you’re doing an interview about which millions and millions of people have very decided views.”
Asked whether the interview had hurt Bradby’s relationship with Prince Harry, he said: “Our relationship, whatever it is or isn’t, is not going to be affected by how I conduct an interview, I would say.
“I don’t know if that answers your question, but I think – I have quite a senior job in British journalism, and I don’t think he would expect to ask me over to do an interview and then really necessarily have a view either way about how I did or didn’t conduct it.
“We don’t really ever talk about things in those terms.”
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