Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Crickets

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Crickets

This is a quickie.

Sometimes, an interviewer will introduce a guest or a number of guests with the expectation that after he finishes the introduction, the guests will acknowledge the introduction by saying something like how glad they are to be there or how grateful they are to have to opportunity to talk.  It’s the official go ahead to the host that the interview can commence.

But sometimes that doesn’t happen.  Sometimes there is dead silence from everybody.  Then, the host is stuck in that wierd little moment between waiting for the guest(s) to acknowledge the introduction and deciding to plow forward without it.

That happened today with Dave Miller, the host of the Oregon Public Broadcasting noontime radio news program “Think Outloud”.  Following a long and flowing introduction of three people who were on the program to speak of their history with former Oregon Republican Governor Vic Atiyeh who had just been honored in a memorial service, none of them said anything.  After a couple seconds, he moved on but you could tell he was caught a little off guard.  After all, you might expect one person out of three to not say anything.  But three out of three?

As an interviewer, you always wonder when that happens why that happens.  It’s sort of a social convention – equivalent to saying thank you when someone holds open a door.  When the convention gets broken, it can be a surprise.  And the dynamics can be a little hard to understand.  Maybe the longer any guest doesn’t hear any other guest speak first, the longer none of them choose to speak first.  Maybe they consider the nicety superflurous and so they don’t participate in it.  Maybe they didn’t hear the introduction or weren’t paying attention to it.  Or maybe they just want to punk the host.  All have happened to me.  Who knows?

But interviewers, journalist, reporters; anyone who publicly  engages the public knows that expecting people to behave a certain way is risky.  You want to give them their respect and make room for cordiality.  When it doesn’t come though, you can’t blink.  You just think to yourself, “Well, it is what it is” and just keep going.

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Written by Interviewer

September 4, 2014 at 02:33

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