Interviewers – ask your question then be quiet

My friend Lisa, who is the pied piper of Ecuador as an involved and involving American expat, offered a comment specific to Fox News about interviewers talking over the answers of people being interviewed. While Fox is far from perfect, they are not alone in interviewers who trample over their guests’ answers. I was planning on writing a piece before I saw her comment, as I get so frustrated when I see this happen.

Two of the worst at this are Gayle King of “CBS Morning News” and Bill Maher of “Real Time with Bill Maher.” I like both of these folks and think Maher is one of the more informed interviewers around. Even though his show is a comedy show, he welcomes guests that have varying views to discuss the topics of the day. King also has a lot to offer, but in a format with two other capable interviewers, she sometimes overshadows the guest to hear herself talk.

What frustrates me more, is when they have a very knowledgeable, but less pushy guest, who is in the middle of making a well-thought out and experienced based point. What happens too often is the point remains incomplete and the guest has to go in a different direction in response to the interruption. My wife teases me when she hears me exclaim “Let the person talk!”

An equally troubling approach is fully deployed by “60 Minutes” interviewers. John Oliver on his news-based comedy show “Last Week Tonight” does a piece which illustrates this approach – giving the answer to the person being interviewed who parrots what the interviewer just said. When Oliver shows about a dozen of these clips in sequence, it is hysterical.

So, interviewer do us all a favor. Ask your question, then be quiet. Let your interviewee finish the answer. Do not talk over the answer to show us how smart you think you are. I would prefer you do your homework beforehand and ask good questions. What ends up happening is the interview falls short of what it could have been. And, don’t give the person the answer – let them use their words.

24 thoughts on “Interviewers – ask your question then be quiet

  1. Well said. It’s especially annoying when we can see immediately that the interviewer isn’t listening to what the respondent has to say! Listening is a lost art — as are reading, calculating, thinking…..etc. etc…….

  2. What was frustrating was there was no other news channel option, and we were wanting to see updates not only regarding the hurricane’s path, but also regarding the oregon fires which are breathing down the necks of her friends and family, many of those dear people I know and love as well… instead, the news seemed to focus on anything ‘negative worthy’ – and it was very very rare to see anything about the fires… i was painting and listened more than watched.. but wow, there was one guy who is so very rude… one climate scientist managed to get one retort in that hushed him.. he said something like, ‘you have children – how can you not be concerned about their future?’ —- i remember the gist but not the exact words, but they seemed to be effective…

    am now back in ecuador, arrived last night, and am about to make the drive home, where – thankfully – there will be no indoor pollution from raucous newscasters! i hope that between here and there, to be able to apply for and receive an internet ‘thumb drive’ that will keep me in touch with all of you!

    • Lisa, I do think this happens with guests on Fox whose opinion is well grounded. The network wants to have them on to drub them, not give them air time. With stances against taking care of the environment, gun control, etc., it doesn’t take long for a true expert to reveal a better argument, so the modus operandi seems to be don’t let them. Thanks for the idea. Keith

  3. In the UK both radio and TV interviewers (even the best) are also guilty of this. UK Politicians have developed a come back, to be delivered in a reasonable voice (normally) ‘Well, if you’d let me finish please’.
    But I suspect it’s all part of the duelling both sides like to engage in.

  4. I fully agree! Being nearly deaf, I rely on closed-captioning to understand what is said, and when they are all talking at once, I get absolutely nothing from the conversation. One of the reason I go in search of transcripts so much! And yes, it would make an interview much more valuable if only one person spoke at a time. Good post!

    • Jill, I bet that makes it nigh impossible. I told my wife about this and she said I bet Jill does not watch “The View,” as they constantly talk over each other. Keith

      • Yes, I have quit watching t.v. altogether, and in fact we canceled our satellite service in January. If I watch anything, I watch on my laptop and use my headphones. Actually, many years ago I did watch The View, as I like Whoopi Goldberg, but then it got fairly ridiculous and I gave it up. Too many people talking all at once about topics about which they know little or nothing. 🙂

      • Agreed on The View, although they have their moments where a good question will be dropped in. To your point, will it be heard?

      • Cynicism is on the rise; it can not be avoided. The only remedy is consistent truth in leadership, which is in short supply.

      • Agreed. With a 5% total accuracy rate, maybe the media should report the 1 in 20 times the President gets it right. That is news, not the lying.

  5. Note to Readers: One of the big disappointments was the interview between Meghan Kelly and Alex Jones. Jones deserves tough questions given his proclivity to make things up and enflame folks. Plus, he uses fear to sell product on his show. Some protested the interview, but he deserves to asked questions just as Basher Al Assad deserves to be asked questions. But, when the interviewer is not prepared to ask them, it is a disservice to the public. Keith

  6. I have noticed even veteran journalist Charlie Rose is guilty of stepping over his guests when he feels particularly passionate about something. Of course, when he’s not passionate, he talks into his hand which annoys me to no end. “Get your hand outta yer face, Charlie!”

  7. Note to Readers: This morning, after asking a good follow-up question of a Senator, Gayle King later stopped the Senator in mid sentence to ask him what they had for dessert at the dinner with the President. Why?

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