Friday, November 18, 2016

You say that, but...

In a post-truth world, imagining the course of a live or as-live broadcast interview is a tricky business.

As a trainee in the early 70s, I occasionally studio-produced The World Tonight on Radio 4, presented then by Douglas Stewart. Douglas would hand-write twelve or so questions ahead of each interview, in his presenter's cubby hole. They followed his own estimate of presumed answers, locked and frozen in order. "You say that, but....", "Given that is your position, what do you say to....", "In the light of that, shall we turn to..." etc etc.  Thankfully, most one-to-one interviews were pre-recorded, and turned into something less obviously structured with the help of a razor blade - especially required when the answers were not what Douglas had anticipated, but had still sailed on.

There were three BBC News interviews this week where it seemed to me that the home side - either editor, fixer, researcher, producer or presenter - hadn't properly thought things through. All three were uncomfortable listens.

Justin Webb on Today wanted to be the first to prove that the Breitbart website was anti-semitic; his interviewee Joel Pollack had been around the block before. Sarah Montague, also on Today, wanted autistic Lauri Love, accused of hacking US government computers, to admit the offence on air. Evan Davis, on Newsnight, seemed annoyed that former Yorkshire copper Sir Norman Bettison, of Hillsborough notoriety, had the audacity to write a book; Sir Norman, a Oxford University psychology and philosophy graduate, was largely impervious, as Evan became obviously more exasperated, dropping question note after question note.

Improvement needed.

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