Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘ramble

Shape of a … Triangle!

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CBS This Morning Studio

Film producing icon Harvey Weinstein was a guest this morning on CBS This Morning.  He talked about the kerfuffle around American Sniper, the snub of Selma and the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscar award nominations.

While responding to a comment by George Lucas about how the Oscars are a political exercise in smearing films not your own, Gayle King reminds Mr. Weinstein that it’s well known that no one in Hollywood is better at stirring up shit about competing films as a way of crashing them than him.  At about 8:37 a.m. Pacific Time, as Mr. Weinstein is deflecting Gayle King’s comment, Charlie Rose’s hand goes to his temple.

Sometimes, when a reporter is listening to an answer that doesn’t ring true, he or she winds up for the pitch with a gesture.  It can be setting down a pencil.  It can be tapping a small stack of papers.  It can be removing glasses.  Mr. Rose rubbed the side of his head ever so briefly before positioning himself on Gayle’s right wingtip.

He followed up on her question by essentially repeating it and after that, things got a teeny bit tense.  But the point, and one I make often in this blog, is that reporters have a responsibility to not let a rambling answer be the only answer.

The three (Charlie, Gayle & Nora) tend to sit at the anchor desk at the points of a triangle for a reason.  Besides being nature’s most stable shape, they once again show they have each other’s backs.

The Deep Breath

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This is a quickie.

I’ve noticed that some questions make some people take very deep breaths before they answer. The American Stress Institute says a deep breath is a signal that someone is trying to relieve stress about a situation. When we are frightened or simply stressed, we tend to hold our breath or take rapid, shallow breaths. Our hearts pound and muscles clench as our adrenaline kicks in.

To me, deep breaths seem to almost always be a signal of one of three things:

(1) The guest doesn’t know the subject and are afraid their lack of knowledge will cause them to embarrass themselves, or

(2) They know the subject very well and are afraid their answer might reveal something about themselves they may not want to reveal, or sometimes,

(3) They are relieved that I didn’t ask a question they thought was coming.

Then again, sometimes people just forget to breathe.

You might sometimes hear the same type of response to 1 & 2; evasive, non-specific or rambling. For number 3, the guest might suddenly perk up and their responses get brighter because they are more relaxed.

If you’re interviewing someone and you hear a deep breath, remember the trigger or the context. There is something there somewhere that may spark a reveal later.

Written by Interviewer

April 8, 2014 at 04:00