Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Anthony Clare and the White Coat Effect

More sad news (tho not on a Coren scale) for radio listeners - the death of Anthony Clare. He was a brilliant 'in-depth' interviewer who, with his long-running In The Psychiatrist's Chair series, conducted some of the most revealing and intimate interviews ever broadcast. It was a brilliant exploitation of what I call the 'white coat effect' - the transforming impact of professional mystique, which shrouds common sense (or indeed nonsense) in an oracular aura, ensuring that it is listened to with heightened attention and even acted on. With that inspired title, Clare was able to create a pseudo-clinical atmosphere and, while doing very little himself, come up with revelations that his subjects would never dream of spilling in a mere interview. Not everyone fell for it of course - Geoffrey Boycott gave a characteristic display of straight-batted stonewalling, while Jimmy Savile disarmed Clare by cheerfully owning up to being a psycho. However, when it worked - and most of the time it did - it created some riveting interviews. Interviews is all they were - the psychiatric content was really nothing beyond a vague assumption that early experiences in life have an effect - but Clare was one of the very best. He made some great radio (it never quite worked on TV) and I hope Radio 4 at least devotes an Archive Hour to him.


  1. You're quite right. He didn't actually interview anybody at all. Not a trick that works for me. No authority, you see.

  2. Buy a white coat - maybe a stethoscope too.