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Posts Tagged ‘Don Fry’

Charlie Meyerson

Charlie Meyerson

One of my interviewing tips drew some criticism from veteran journalist and teacher Charlie Meyerson.

Charlie, news chief at Rivet News Radio, and I disagree a bit about whether using “uh-huh” in interviews is good or bad.

Here’s what I said in Thursday’s post, an updated version of an old handout for a workshop on interviewing:

Uh-huh. Move the interview along with responsive questions and statements that basically tell the character to keep talking: ‘Uh-huh.’ ‘Really?’ ‘What happened next?’ ‘How did you react?’

I think I was using “uh-huh” and other short verbal cues to keep talking back in the 1980s (or possibly 1970s), long before I first connected with Don Fry, one of the best writing coaches in journalism. But Don says, “The most powerful interview technique is nodding your head and saying, ‘Uh-huh.'” So, if I didn’t learn the technique from Don, he at least reinforced my belief that it’s an effective way to keep someone talking in an interview.

But Charlie has a lot more radio experience than Don or I have, and he sent me this note, disagreeing with my advice:

‘Uh-huh’ is a bad habit I’m still trying to kill among my students and staff. It ruins a lot of audio and video (makes excerpts unusable — a bad thing in this era when multimedia is an invaluable asset for digital journalism). It also makes the reporter seem sympathetic to an interviewee, compromising a sense of objectivity. My counsel: Ask good questions and get the hell out of the way, nodding (silently!) once in a while if needed to encourage someone to keep going.

Charlie sent along a link to his guide to interview techniques, which I heartily endorse. But I wasn’t going to give up right away on “uh-huh.” My response (Charlie got to the point more succinctly than I did): (more…)

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This is another Training Tracks blog post from the archive of No Train, No Gain, originally published June 21, 2004:

An intern asked a couple questions that wouldn’t even occur to a veteran in our newsroom: She was covering an event about three or four hours away and wondered if it would be OK to check out a company car the day before and drive to the event and spend the night. And would it be OK to drive all the way back in the evening after she filed her story?

On the surface, this was a simple matter of logistics, a cautious intern covering her tail as she made plans. And let’s face it, covering our tails is an important lesson for budding journalists to learn.

My answer went beyond the logistical questions to address the unspoken question and one of the most important lessons interns or other young journalists need to learn: trust and responsibility. (more…)

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