Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Archive for April 2017


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Journalists sometimes bait people.  And they do it under the guise of asking the simple, seemingly innocent question.  For instance, when Gayle King of CBSThisMorning asks today interviewee Chelsea Clinton if she has anything she wants to “pass along” to tomorrow interviewee, Ivanka Trump, the questions seems not to be an invitation to share ideas.  Because since the entire conversation focused on her mother’s loss of the 2016 election, the disagreements Chelsea Clinton feels with the Trump administration and whether or not she herself will run for future office,  Ms. King’s offer, instead, sounded like a prompt to get Ms. Clinton to do Ms. King’s dirty work, i.e., say some shit-stirring thing that she as an “unbiased” journalists couldn’t or shouldn’t say.


But something else.  After the third or fourth ask of whether or not she herself would run for office, you could see Ms. Clinton’s brow knit for a split second.  It was a microexpresssion and a true indication of her annoyance with the insistence of the program’s hosts to try to pin her down regarding her political intentions.  Of course, she was prepared for this, and of course, this is what journalists do.  But this post is about feelings obviously felt, but not necessarily shared in all of their pointy sharpness.

Microexpressions, identified by the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) are the tendency of a human face to reveal instantaneous emotion in reaction to a stimulus.  People almost always flash them across their face whenever they have feelings of disgust, fear, anger, surprise or one of the other, basic emotions.  But depending of the context, they may, in the next second, try to hide those expressions to present a more socially acceptable, sustained expression.

Radio is my thing but I’ve spent many years in TV and video production.  And radio interviews often require sitting face to face across a table with someone.  So, as with anyone who has worked in the business and done lots of interviews, I am trained to pick up on microexpressions.

As I’m sure are the journalists at CBSThisMorning.

Written by Interviewer

April 4, 2017 at 22:35

Posted in Scratchpad