Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘clever


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Prison Bars

On the dividing line between “funny ha ha” and “funny strange”, radio sometimes dangles toes on both sides.

This morning, on NPR’s “Here and Now”, host Jeremy Hobson was talking to reporter Steve Chiotakis of KCRW in Los Angeles about a recent escape of three inmates from the Orange County Men’s Central Jail near Santa Ana, California.  The three pulled off a daring escape, “Shawshank Redemption” style, and now may possibly be harbored by members of the nearby Vietnamese community.

Anyway, in the course of describing the break, Mr. Hobson says something like, “And these men have committed crimes that we probably wouldn’t want to describe on the radio” in that manner of radio hosts where they make a statement into a question by hanging a big empty space on the end of it.

And Mr. Chiotakis, taking his cue, begins to describe the crimes the men committed.

This is one of the many things about reporting and journalism that I think listeners can sometimes find annoying.  Don’t be cagey or cutesy or self-impressively clever about how you skirt lines you draw, please.

Say or don’t say, but don’t be “yeech” about it.

Written by Interviewer

January 27, 2016 at 03:10

I Agree

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This is a quickie.

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews with politicians as part of a project to invite as many Oregon 2014 candidates as possible to the microphone and let the public hear their views.  In many cases, these candidates have been ignored by their party in favor of candidates that have already been approved by the larger political machine.  In others, the candidates don’t affiliate themselves with that machine, opting instead to run a “grass roots” campaign.

The point of this post, though, is messaging and how some candidates, even if unknown, are much better at it than others.  An interviewee with experience turning the agenda during an interview can use many tricks to do that.  A really cool one is trying to subtlety make the interviewer complicit to their point of view.  For example, consider this exchange;

Q: What do you think about the opinion of some that taxes are too high?

A:  I agree with you that taxes are too high, and this is how I would fix that …

I agree with you?  The interviewer was asking a question about a question, not making a statement or giving a personal opinion.  But to bring credibility to their own views about taxes, a clever interviewee might turn the question into an opportunity to trick the listener into thinking the interviewer has the same opinion about taxes as the interviewee.  This technique can be used for any subject, and the interviewer must immediately challenge the reply by making clear that they have no position on the subject.  But if the interviewee manages to slip it in, the egregious “I agree with you that taxes are too high, and …” can simply be edited out.

I’ve talked about credibility dangers the interviewer can face.  The interviewee is not talking with you to enhance your credibility.  They are there to enhance their own and sometimes, they will try to do that by any means necessary.  An interviewer’s job is to make clear everything the interviewee reveals without allowing their own credibility to suffer in the process.  As I’ve said, the point of these interviews is to let people hear the candidates and their views.  Hopefully, they also hear how and what the candidate doesn’t say.

Written by Interviewer

April 14, 2014 at 23:45