The Hampson Interview

In the latest issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism, now on sale, Dominique Lamberton profiles Sarah Hampson. Hampson has made a living writing about the lives of others — and a lot about herself. But now, for the first time, someone else is asking the questions. Still can’t get enough RRJ? Check out the magazine’s newly re-designed website (, for loads of new features — and a few more story teasers.

Sarah Hampson switches on her small, black digital recorder and is greeted with the sound of her own voice. It’s scratchy and accompanied by static as it travels through the small speaker. She’s playing back an interview with Roméo Dallaire. She’d sat down with the retired Canadian lieutenant-general a few weeks prior to discuss the release of his latest book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, about the prevalence of child soldiers and his desire to eradicate their use.

“How did you find it?” Dallaire’s inquisitive voice floods out of the recorder, filling Hampson’s living room.

“I know in the past,” Hampson begins, “that you wrote about how you were…uhh…inspired by…uhh…the…umm…the, the…author…sorry, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry…”

She briefly stumbles on her words — not because she hasn’t read the book or isn’t a skilled interviewer. It’s just that Hampson’s used to asking all the questions.

At 52, the award-winning magazine and newspaper writer has sat down with more than 500 of the world’s most interesting people, from the audacious Hugh Hefner and the insightful Leonard Cohen to the difficult Peter O’Toole. For over 10 years Hampson has created clever character studies in a weekly slot in The Globe and Mail — once known as “The Hampson Interview,” but now simply called “The Interview.” She also wrote “Generation Ex,” a relationship and divorce column that garnered as many fans as it did detractors, and “Currency,” a weekly feature about the way Canadians spend money.

Now, after a few transitional years in her work and personal life, she’s agreed to be profiled for the first time in her 18-year career. “If you want to come to my house, you know, for some colour for your story, that would be fine,” she says the first time we meet, laughing and sipping the foam of her latte at the Starbucks she frequents near the Globe’s Toronto headquarters. “Or, I can even take you for a ride in my crappy PT Cruiser. I know how this works.”

Few reporters would disagree. Although she often refers to herself as “an accidental journalist,” Hampson has made a reputation as one of the country’s most talented profile writers, translating face-to-face impressions into words and unveiling an insightful portrait of each subject. But in the process, what portrait of herself does she reveal?

To continue reading, see The Hampson Interview at the RRJ site.