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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Broadcasting: The annoying interviewer who provides both questions and answers

UPDATED:

This item is from my favourite magazine, Private Eye. It is supposed to be satire, but is it? Having listened to James "Jim" Naughtie on the Today Programme this week, it would be easy to think that the item was a genuine transcript.
 

The other morning, on the Today Programme, Jim Naughtie was in typical form. As always, his questions were part statement and part enquiry. This is irritating enough, but what is really infuriating is his apparent compulsion to also provide the answers. What we got the other morning was something along these lines: "So, your answer would be blah, blah, blah, blah, etc ete, etc." This left the interviewee with three options: 1) answer "yes", 2) answer "no", or 3) provide an even more expanded reply than already given by Jim. She took Option 3. What she should have said was "Why the hell am I here if you're not going to allow me to answer your questions in my own way?"

An interview is best conducted if the questions are simple and direct.

Example:
  • Tell us what happened?
  • Was anyone hurt?
  • Do they know the cause?
  • Will there be an investigation?
  • etc etc

For a long time, Jim Naughtie's interviews have been the subject of public complaint and derision. So, why does he continue unchanged? Does he love and admire the sound of his own voice? Does he dismiss the satire and complaints as a form of love? Is his brain incapable of composing a simple question?

Above all, why don't his bosses have the courage to tell him that if he doesn't mend his ways, they will find someone else who can deliver interviews in a less irritating way? There are dozens of first class interviewers floating around the BBC. Many would love to replace him on the Today Programme and on his Radio Four Book Club.

UPDATE: This morning I heard Jim Naughtie doing an interview in which he asked two or three very simple, direct questions. Congratulations, Jim. See, you can do it if you try!


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