Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

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I want to mention that formatting some of my most recent posts has been kind of hinky.  I don’t know what WordPress is doing but I’m sure there is often somebody making tweeks that don’t work and then, those tweeks get undone and things go back to working seamlessly.  I’m hoping it soon moves back to the seamless part.

Anyway, this is another quickie.  It has to do with the interviewer’s mistakes during an interview.  Specifically, the concept of fixing as you go.  If you’re live, then your fixes are awkward because everybody hears them.  You have a brain fart, you stutter, you recall wrong information, whatever.  If this doesn’t happen too often, you are probably endeared to your listeners as being an authority, but not TOO much of an authority because, you can make mistakes just like them.  I’ll be talking about perfect host speech in a later post.

But if you’re recording the conversation for later editing and broadcasting/posting, your guest probably doesn’t care if you fix as you go.  In fact, they may be fascinated by the process because they too may not realize mistakes are made that the audience never hears.  When I, as a young reporter, learned that fix as you go was an essential tool for narration, it changed my world.  Because until then, you tend to want to be perfect.  Learning the mechanics of articulation can be a blessing and a curse.  Your speech improves by orders of magnitude once you learn how it should sound, about proper pronunciation and placement of tongue on teeth for words, letters and syllables.  But conversely, once you start noticing your own mistakes, you never want to make any.  And that means a young producer or reporter might spend way too much time starting over from the beginning ever time they make the slightest grammatical mistake.  That old joke of someone doing ten, twenty, thirty or more re-takes … sometimes it’s not a joke.

So the fix it as you go method is, you’re reading your text.  You make a mistake.  Do you go back to the very beginning of the document?  No.  Do you go back to the beginning of the paragraph?  No.  At most, you go back to the beginning of the sentence, taking care to remember your volume, pitch, cadence and mood so that when you edit out the mistake, it sounds seamless.  At the very least, you pick up at the word you messed up so you’re cutting a single word instead of a sentence worth of them.

Here’s what it might look like:

The case was returned to Grand Jury for … the Grand Jury after the Attorney General …

The mistake was in the first half of the sentence.  The reader forgot to say “the”.  This happens a lot because the brain is always ahead of the mouth.  Often you hear people skip words or juxtapose letters or syllables when they talk.  In the edit, all you have to do is cut out the first “Grand Jury for” and you’re good to go.  Plus, the fewer times you repeat words you’ve already spoken, the less of a chance you’ll misspeak them again, which also saves time and can prevent those annoying re-takes.

That might not sound like a big concession, to not repeat the whole sentence in favor of just a word or two.  But if you are OCD, like so many producers and reporters are, you realize that immediately continuing on from the point you messed up will save you scores of minutes of editing.  And if you’re under deadline, one second too late is still one second too late.

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Written by Interviewer

April 11, 2014 at 03:00

Posted in Scratchpad

Tagged with , , , ,

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