Transition from print to audio: learning to interrupt

One crucial skill for a podcast interviewer: Knowing how to interrupt.
Stephen Baker

Heather's getting some grief (otherwise known as constructive criticism) on her podcast. Too much listening in the interview and saying uh-huh, says one commenter. I can relate, because I've had exactly the same problem when doing podcasts.

The trouble is this: As print journalists, we rarely have to interrupt people. They can blather on and on, and if they say something useful or interesting, we have what we need. For radio, we have to learn to interrupt. This is especially hard when you're doing an interview by telephone. On phone, you can't send the interviewees frantic hand signals or silent screams begging them to conclude. You have to interrupt. Quick interjections don't do the trick. They'll roll right over those. No, you have to barrel over them and keep talking until they shut up.

If these are the ABCs of audio journalism, most of us ink-smeared types are only at A.

(Now that I think about it, there are occasions when print journalists have to interrupt. Say we're given 15 minutes or a half hour with a president or an important CEO. If they start rolling with their talking points, an interruption is sometimes called for. Otherwise they'll effectively kill the interview while sidestepping one question. It's a bit of a paradox. We interrupt the hurried big shots but have plenty of time to listen politely to the small fry.)

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