Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘CNN

Breaking News

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I don’t mean sudden and important updates.

Watching the CNN coverage of Malaysian Flight 370, I slowly became more interested in the commercial breaks than the news reports. For instance, the commercial break that happened at 23:47 PST on Friday, March 21, 2014, lasted about four minutes. The following spots played:

AXA Financial Advisors
Phillips Probiotics
UPS/America’s Natural Gas
Lumber Liquidators
Dish Network
Credit Karma
Christian Mingle

The next break came at 23:55 PST and lasted four minutes. Those spots were:

Liberty Mutual
Alka Seltzer
Exxon Valdez TV Special
Centennial Hyundai (non-network spot)
Cub Cadet
CNN/Anderson Cooper Promo
Anthony Bourdain Promo
ChicagoLand Promo

There was about four minutes of news between each break. There are eight breaks like this each hour. No doubt, CNN provides a valuable service. But a compelling story like the disappearance of a modern jet airliner with 239 souls onboard certainly draws more eyeballs to those commercials which is something I’m sure neither the network or the advertisers mind.

We’ve all known that ads pay for news; that advertising is more important than news. News purists like to think it’s the other way around, but it’s not. However, there is something skeezy about the concentration of ads throughout CNN’s broadcast day during this crisis.

In April 2013, Slate Magazine produced a story called “Breaking News is Broken”. I’ll be posting more later about “Breaking News” . But I wanted to make sure that I mentioned something about the money first.

Written by Interviewer

March 22, 2014 at 14:13

Joke’s on Somebody

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This is about interviewing, AND it’s directed at Saturday Night Live.

Skit #1 – The Talkover
A Western media outlet anchor is on the phone with a subject, preferably someone with a noticeably foreign accent on a bad connection. In the course of the discussion, the person on the phone takes offense to something the anchor has said or implied. The person on the phone is defensive and tries to get out what they’re trying to say. But the anchor, when continuing the question or asking a follow up question, continues to plow through, and over, and under the person on the phone even as they are responding or trying to respond. The anchor makes sure they get their complete question asked even- when-their-speaking-speed-falls-to-one-deliberate-and-unyielding-word-per-second.

Would it be funny on SNL? Probably. Is it funny on the air? Not really, because it shows how arrogant anchors can be, though it’s understandable where this came from. It used to be that a bully interviewee could out talk the interviewer such that the interviewer looked and sounded like they didn’t have what it took to keep control of the interview. But as communication has advanced, with human nature being what it is, and journalism being the dark art it can sometimes be, an adversarial interview is a good excuse for a good interviewer to softly beat the hell out of somebody just like this. I mean, an interviewer is supposed to be asking the questions they think the audience wants to hear. But sometimes, these can feel and sound like poking the bear, appropriate to nothing.

Skit #2 – Splain Me
A Western media outlet anchor is talking to a subject and the subject makes a common, cultural reference, and the anchor inserts a verbal ellipse, essentially grinding the interview to a halt and says, “That means blah, blah, blah …” for that uninitiated audience member who just for the first time, cracked open the door of their 1953 bomb shelter. To wit;

Guest – Within about 25 years, the Earth will …
Anchor – And just to be clear, we’re talking about the third planet from the sun …
Guest – Uh, yeah, anyway …

This is sort of understandable too. Back in the 70s and 80s, was when we were just starting to hear about how American school students didn’t know state capitals. And that got news organizations worrying that Americans didn’t know basic geography. Sadly, every so often Conan or Dave Letterman, or Jimmy Fallon or Craig Ferguson show, that for some of us, this is still true. But back then, it wasn’t so funny. So the networks started using more graphics and maps, and taking more time to explain the basic connections to the story they might be in the middle of telling. But now, with as much instant communication and ubiquitous access to Google and Wikipedia as there is, I’m starting to think that if people don’t know, it’s a lot like non-smoking education; it’s not because the information isn’t out there, maybe they just don’t care. This is something similar from a comment board called “” from 2007:

Guest: “And then Franklin Roosevelt created . . .”

Interviewer (interrupting): “That would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States.”

Guest: “Yes. Anyway, then FDR created . . .”

Interviewer (interrupting): “FDR being Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

Guest: “Yes. Then FDR created the Works Progress Administration . . .”

Interviewer (interrupting): “Commonly known as the WPA.”

. . . and so on . . .
Posted by: Paul W. | Link to this comment | 02- 2-07 11:36 PM horizontal rule

OK, they may be a little less informed than you, but you’ve got them covered. So, maybe we can ease up on dropping the encyclopedia on the table in the middle of a good conversation.

SNL, these could be two new versions of your standard NPR skit setpiece. Pleeeeeze.

Written by Interviewer

April 30, 2013 at 04:10