NPR Fresh Air Host Terry Gross Is A Terrible Interviewer

I was listening to her tonight interview David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. Here is how she began.

Terry: “Of all the magazines in America, the New Yorker is probably the one with the most traditions that are cherished by its readers. The cover illustrations, the cartoons, Talk of the Town, the long profiles, the investigative pieces, the listings, its fiction, its humor pieces, movie theater music, reviews, readers want those traditions left in tact. But on the other hand, I bet that unless you really updated things in some ways, that readers really wouldn’t read it. You know what I mean? I mean, I think there is sometime this disconnect between what people insist that they want and what they’ll actually read in changing times?”

So one minute and forty five seconds into the interview, David gets a chance to say something, but what can he say? Terry Gross has boxed him in with her lengthy opinions posing as a question. Any time you ask a long rambling question that contains a lot of statements and expressions of your own opinions, filled with value judgments, and then you have to say, “You know what I mean?”, that indicates you asked a lousy question. And Terry knows it, because she follows up with another “I mean.” If she knew what she was doing, she’d ask a question in fewer words.

Terry Gross, here are some tips on interviewing.

David’s answer to Terry’s first question is shorter than her question itself.

Terry’s second question is horrendous: “One of the things you’ve done is bring The New Yorker into the digital age. And umm one of the things about digital media is that you can actually measure how many people are reading each article, each page of each article, is that a mixed blessing or is that just you know an out and out good thing for you? The reason why I ask is, it is sometimes depressing to see what gets the most hits, what gets the most clicks, sometimes it’s the thing with the most recipes, not that there’s anything wrong with recipes, but you know, you’ll do a really important piece about something and that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the recipes are going to get. How much do you let that guide you in terms of what you want, a publication or radio or TV show to be? What are your thoughts about that?”

David Remnick tries several times to answer but she runs over him each time. Her second question took over 40 seconds to pose.

Any time an interviewer has to explain, “The reason why I ask,” he’s usually in deep trouble.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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