The Secrets of a Good Interview: Oprah Winfrey’s Interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Lucy Stefani '21, Arts & Entertainment Editor

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s highly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey aired this past weekend, Winfrey revealed her gifts as a journalist and her compassion as an attuned conversationalist. While the world is still reeling from some of the shocking revelations revealed through the interview, my biggest takeaway was a renewed appreciation for Oprah’s skill as a journalist, but also her unique focus on the humanity of journalism. In a world focused on shocking headlines and outrageous moments, Oprah approaches her role with empathy and care for her subjects. She is a true role model in how to connect with another human being on a personal level.

I have had a deep respect for Oprah and her work ever since I chose to focus my research project on her last year in AP Lang. Through researching Oprah’s career, I learned about how she took her show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, far beyond the boundaries of typical daytime television, using it to tell important stories and give a voice to the voiceless. By covering topics such as sexual abuse and the AIDS epidemic, Oprah’s show fostered conversation nationwide about topics that were rarely discussed with such sensitivity in mainstream media. She spoke out about how she wanted to use her show as a way to lift people up and let them know that they are not alone.

Today, nearly a decade since her show wrapped, Oprah still uses her platform to help honor others’ stories. Nowhere is this more clear than in her interview with Meghan and Harry. What made this interview so engaging, despite the difficult content covered, was how conversational the interview felt. Oprah offers a safe space and an empathetic ear for her guests, and it makes for a viewing experience that feels warm and inviting. What sets Oprah apart is her genuine desire to honor the stories of her guests. Throughout the interview, after listening to her guests’ responses, Oprah would pose questions using phrases like “So what I’m hearing is…. Is that what you’re saying?” By asking these clarifying questions, Oprah strives to uncover the true meaning behind Meghan and Harry’s words. She’s not looking to get out of them what is most entertaining or what will make headlines. She’s not crafting a narrative around what she wants as her angle. She is merely helping them to tell their truth in the most clear and honest way possible. 

Oprah also manages to strike the perfect balance between probing her guests to get to the truth of what they are saying while still respecting their privacy and comfort level. Oprah certainly doesn’t shy away from asking the tough questions, yet she understands and respects the boundaries between herself and her guests. Meghan and Harry were very open about many aspects of their experience in the royal family, but there remain some details that the couple chose to keep private. While Oprah was persistent in her pursuit of the truth, she knew when to step back and respect their privacy. This goes back to the idea of honoring the stories of her guests. Oprah doesn’t look at her interviewees as a means to an end. She doesn’t use them to get the information she wants out of them. She sees her guests as real people with real emotions, never losing sight of the humanity of her subjects. 

The final key ingredient to Oprah’s interviewing skill is her genuine empathy for human beings. As Meghan revealed the details of her mental health struggles, it was clear that Oprah was truly listening, rather than planning her next question in her head. The look in her eyes expressed pure love and understanding. By the way she framed her questions, she made Meghan feel heard and understood. 

Oprah is a role model in so many ways — and through so many different lenses. Her method of interviewing serves as a model to myself and the entire Looking Glass staff as young journalists, teaching us how to get to the bottom of a good story while still honoring the dignity of the subject. In a much broader context, Oprah models how to have true conversation about difficult topics. Sitting face to face, looking each other in the eyes, and having a genuine conversation has become a rare occurrence for many of us, but Oprah is a reminder of the power of conversation. By approaching every discussion with Oprah’s empathy, respect, and genuine desire to uncover the truth rather than what we want to hear, we can all foster truly meaningful conversations. 

Lucy Stefani ‘21, Arts & Entertainment Editor

21lstefani@montroseschool.org