Emmy-winning Celebrity News Reporter Shares Journalism Advice at Sharp Theater

Photo by Pauline Park

Emmy Award winning TV interviewer and journalist John Bathke came to Ramapo on Friday for an evening of entertainment and personal anecdotes about life in television news. Presented by the Berrie Center and Cahill Center, the event was called "John Bathke: It’s Only Humiliation! Lessons of a Celebrity Interviewer."

Bathke is a graduate from Northwestern University with a master's degree in journalism. His presentation was intended to teach his audience how to become skilled and more engaged communicators, as he demonstrated “game changing” techniques used by professionals. Bathke shared his insight on how to better hone interviewing skills, whether it be for a job or a date.

Bathke created and hosts an entertainment series on Channel 12 New Jersey called “On the Scene,” and he’s interviewed stars such as Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, Bernadette Peters and Mary J. Blige. 

“Joan Rivers taught me that no matter what job you take that is beneath your dignity, take it. I was going to take the biggest risks out of life, because what the hell? If it doesn’t work out, its only humiliation,” said Bathke, as he continued to talk about how he started in the competitive media industry. 

Due to inclement weather, there were only a handful of people at the event, which was a benefit in the long run because the audience had the opportunity to experience something Bathke says he rarely does – tell his story from the very beginning.

“I called 1992 my dead year. The country was in a recession, and I was in a depression I didn’t think I’d come out of. I had no job; I lost all hope and happiness. I learned how to make friends with the cockroaches,” said Bathke.

During his presentation, he reached out to his audience on a personal level. His first job was at an Atlantic City television station that was an NBC affiliate as an assignment editor. He moved to New Jersey on the same day of the state’s worst nor’easter, and his first job as a news reporter was to cover the destruction of the 9th Street jetty in Atlantic City. This is when Bathke said his "dead year" had come to an end.

Since then, Bathke has won a NY Emmy Award for “On the Scene,” and one for On Camera Achievement Entertainment Reporting.

Bathke left his audience with more knowledge and awareness about how to properly communicate in the field of journalism or in any professional setting. Removing distractions is key: address personal questions directly, create a zone of intimacy and recognize your goal out of the interaction.

“I learned a lot about, at least from my own experience, on how to eliminate distractions and focusing on the person I’m talking to. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even though I’m not personally going to interview a celebrity, it’s something to take with you in a professional setting,” said junior Veronica Bassano. 

He explained that there are times where your conversations may not go as planned, but it won't be you who failed – it will be the technique.

“No matter how much goes wrong, just keep going,” said Bathke. “Work with the momentum you have. If life is going good, then just roll with it.”