Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Jian Ghomeshi

Rats

leave a comment »

Rats

I’ve spent the afternoon listening to the rebroadcast of All Things Considered.  The local public radio station plays two hours of ATC and then, replays it.  Two hours ago, I heard all of the stories I was now hearing again.  And I was remembering the finer points of each story.  Once you’ve heard something once, you have a pretty good idea of what it’ll sound like if you hear it again.  And, it checks your memory when what you hear differs from what you remember.

I bring this up because I told Q host Piya Chattopadhyay via Twitter that I heard her say, “I’m Piya Chattopadhyay sitting in for Jian Ghomeshi” at the start of a story about the Mars One project.  When I heard that, I thought “This must be an archive interview from before Ghomeshi’s dismissal in October 2014″.  But I went online and saw the interview was actually today, not six months ago.

While listening to ATC, I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I remember this story and that story.  I remember that cadence, those words, that pause.”  In other words, the stuff my ears were linking to my memory was a lot more complicated than the eight words I was certain I heard Ms. Chattopadhyay say on Q earlier in the day.

All stations use something called an aircheck, which is a device that records every second of every minute of broadcasts for legal and archival purposes for a time.  I suggested she check that file since what I heard was before the story that appears on the Q website.  Later in the day, she very kindly responded and told me she said something that was distantly similar but not what I remembered.

So, I have two choices and neither are all that great.  Argue with someone who insists they said one thing.  Or deny myself my recollection of the other thing.  And at this moment, I am reminded of the essentially ethereal nature of radio.  Once the sound is gone, it’s gone and there is no way the public can prove what was said.  In this case, I am the public.

How important is this, really?  Well, I don’t like to be wrong.  I’ll start there.  But I can’t do what I do, being a journalist, without admitting that I can be even if it makes me look bad.  And who wants to admit looking bad.  So there’s that.

And honestly, to go any further with this just seems petty.

I was wrong.

I’ll stop there.

Written by Interviewer

March 24, 2015 at 11:54

The Nuclear Option

leave a comment »

Nuclear Explosion

In what I believe what may have been one of the few treatments of the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi situation since late October, Q host Wab Kinew interviewed cultural observers Justin Worland and Tyler Coates about how recent allegations of sexual predation against a spate of stars by victimized women has tainted their public persona.  For most of the interview, Mr. Kinew seemed to be talking around the CBC’s own nightmare.  But at the end, he asked the question I asked in my November 1st blogpost; What will the CBC do with the thousands of hours of conversations recorded by Ghomeshi in his six years as host of the CBC’s flagship arts and entertainment program?  And if they air, would the CBC in some way be condoning Ghomeshi’s alleged behavior?

The CBC, according to Mr. Kinew, has decided to not only not replay any of the interviews Mr. Ghomeshi conducted, but it is apparently in the process of removing all of those interviews from its archive.  By starting fresh and essentially saying those interviews never happened, the CBC has chosen the nuclear option. The discussion was mostly good yesterday memories v bad today news stories; not my focus here.  Besides, both guests had different opinions over how they see the current situation and how they recall questionable behavior from Roman Polanski through Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Ray Rice to Jian Ghomeshi.  It’s a split I suspect divides listeners as well.  Loyalists for these famous men will probably continue to give them the benefit of the doubt.  And in a democratic society, that is their right.

As of this post, only two people had commented on today’s conversation.  And both of them were against deleting the archives.  They feel people should have the choice to listen or not.  That only two people commented on a story that, a month and a half ago, split Q’s massive audience down the middle does seem to say that people, in large part, have moved on.

It is interesting that both men seem to praise  the writers and producers of the Cosby Show and the good work they did even if Bill Cosby’s name is the prominent one.  They are kind to the show and say it has much to give future generations in terms of its messages of positive family life.  I feel the same way about many of Qs hard working producers who sweated bullets to get some of the best interviews of their careers only to know they have essentially been erased from history.

My focus is the cultural loss that was balanced against the moral outrage.  The fact that CBC is going to essentially burn thousands of hours of interviews from legendary luminaries whose voices, many of which will never be heard again, says they don’t have much of an appetite for ambiguity.

Fire and forget.

Written by Interviewer

December 16, 2014 at 11:31

This was Q

leave a comment »

Jian

Among the logistical sciences is inventory movement and control.  So with the recent firing of Q host Jian Ghomeshi, I began to wonder what will happen to the thousands of interviews he has recorded over the years for the popular Canadian Broadcasting Company program?  Ghomeshi began hosting the program in April 2007.  Since then, with at least three interviews per 90 minute program (2 hours on Friday), a conservative guess is that he has logged more than 5000 interviews in seven years.  And they’ve included cultural icons ranging from Joni Mitchell to Kermit the Frog to Bjork.  Many of stars he has talked with have died and thus, they are immortalized in the Q archive.

Q and the CBC own those interviews, but how will they replay them?  Will it be a circumstance similar to the BBC, which for six years banned the voice of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams?  Or will a time come when Mr. Ghomeshi’s voice can be heard by listeners, but in doses?  Or will the CBC begin the arduous process of re-editing those precious conversations with a different hosting voice?  Right now, by all indications, he has been thoroughly scrubbed from CBC’s websites.  But I bet those conversations of what to do with those priceless interviews are in process.

As I look at recent interview airings by Q since Mr. Ghomeshi’s October 26th firing, they are selecting conversations he has not conducted.  But I’m guessing the ratio of guest host interviews to Ghomeshi’s interviews is tiny.  That well may run dry relatively soon. “Encore”, “archived” and “evergreen” programs give a variety show like “Q” breathing room.  Without a cushion of pre-recorded stuff, pressure is on to create it.

This is the double edged sword of a successful concern, no matter what it is.  If it is mission based, people flock to it mostly for what it does.  However, if it is personality based, people flock to it for who does it.  Mission based is much more durable but much less sexy.  And when the cult figure tilts and falls, what to do with that legacy, whether emotional or digital?

Written by Interviewer

November 1, 2014 at 05:05

The Answer you Want versus The Answer you Get

leave a comment »

its-not-warming-its-dying-campaign-to-tackle-climate-change-1-640x640-590x590

Jian Ghomeshi recently interviewed Milton Glaser, an ad man who has taken on the task of bringing the warming of the earth into public consciousness with a jarring image that implies the earth is dying.  It shows the green of the earth being overtaken by black.  During the course of the interview, Ghomeshi asks Glaser why he decided to take on this challenge.

As a listener and an interviewer, I hear this question and I automatically assume both a reason for the question and anticipate an answer.  The reason, namely, since Mr. Glaser is 85, might Ghomeshi be asking him if he is taking on the cause because he is of advanced years and wants to do something both big, and something that deeply affects his and all of our lives in an intimate way before the end of his own life?

And the answer I assume is, yes, that is true because … and then Mr. Glaser would talk about the changes he’s seen, or how he himself was never sold on the idea of an earth that’s getting hotter but as he’s grown older, he gradually become aware of a truth he can’t ignore.  Or maybe he’d say something like he’s at an age where he doesn’t really care about how people in general or people in advertising in particular might react to his methods.

Perhaps I wrongly assume the question and the answer, but I still assume them.

And then, he says something completely different.  He says, “Yikes” in a way that implies he hadn’t really thought about why he decided to take on this work.  And as both a listener and an interviewer, I’m disappointed and I think, “How could you not think about what drove you do this?”  Worse, I think “How could you not answer the way I though you would?”

That’s pretty terrible, I know.

The thing about interviews and interviewing is they don’t always line up.  You hear a set of questions that seems to point to an answer like bowling pins to a strike.  But then, you get something completely different and you’re thrown.

But then again, maybe not.  Maybe you are living in the moment and appreciate the answer because you weren’t thinking you were smarter that the person actually answering the question.  Or maybe you had the thought but you pushed it out of your mind as ridiculously pretentious.

When you talk to a lot of people, you hear a lot of answers.  And when you’re coming up with questions, sometimes, you have a bias.  There is a certain thing you want to hear and when you don’t hear it, as an interviewer, sometimes you ask the same question again because you’re thinking, “OK, I’m going to lay this out for you and please say what I’m expecting.”  When it doesn’t happen, as an interviewer it can be frustrating because you might think the answer in your head is better than the answer in your guest’s head.

But it’s not true.  It never is.  And it never will be.

Bad listener/interviewer.  Bad.

Annoying Interviewer Traits

leave a comment »

interviewer

I’ve been wanting to write about this for awhile because I listen to a lot of interviews and the thing about becoming familiar with a particular interviewer is that you become familiar with how they structure their conversations with their guests. You learn how they talk, their tics and mannerisms, the way they pose their questions.  And after awhile, you realize it gives credence to that old saw, “Familiarity breeds Contempt”.

And because I do a lot of interviews, I listen to a lot of interviewers.  It’s sort of a requirement of the guild of interviewers to keep up on the styles and techniques of others.  In particular, I listen to a lot of Charlie Rose, Terry Gross, Jian Ghomeshi, Bob Garfield, Ira Glass, Michelle Martin, Dick Gordon, Melissa Block, Gwen Iffil, Bob Edwards, Jonathan Goldstein, Tavis Smiley, John Stewart, Brooke Gladstone, David Letterman.  And I listen to a lot of regional and local interviewers too.  But one interviewer in particular has some really annoying traits that I am having trouble dealing with.

This person says “um” or “you know” almost constantly.  He (and it is a he) asks the first part of his questions and then has this annoying way of slipping in an “I mean …” as a way of trying to rephrase the same question without making it sound unbearably long and drawn out.  But when he does ask questions, sometimes they’re long and drawn out anyway.  I sometimes hear him suck in his breath in preparation of his next question and I wonder if he is truly listening to the guest or just biding his time until he can line through the next question on his list.  And finally, he has this tendency to uptalk which is a kind of grating in a universe all its own.

I listen to this guy on a regular basis and I am full of respect and criticism.  I of course admire all he had done to find his guests, research them, schedule them, visit them, interview them, edit them and present them.  His guests seem happy.  His audience seems appreciative.  But I hear these traits of his and I just want to pull my hair out.

I know he is getting better, slowly.  I can hear him trying to pace himself so he doesn’t slur words.  He doesn’t seem to use “um” so much.  He holds his breath for a beat after the guest stops talks so he doesn’t sound like he’s rushing through his questions.

Little by little, he’s improving.  I’m guessing knows he’s got a lot of work to do to be anywhere near as good as any of the people I mentioned above.  But my standards as a listener are high.  The pros have set the bar and this guy, although I like him, doesn’t get a pass for his mistakes.  At best, he gets my patience while I look over his shoulder, watching and waiting for him to improve; to be as good as he wants to be.

I have faith in him, though.  He’ll get there.