For class this week, we were assigned 3 TV interviews to watch (which I cannot link at the moment because of computery issues but will edit them in when I can), and evaluate the relative merits of each. The interviews were a) Jon Stewart’s takedown of Mad Money’s Jim Kramer, b) a TED interview with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, and c) a Stephen Colbert interview with Julian Assange.
I would rate the Jon Stewart interview far and away the best, and the Colbert interview above the TED talk. My reasons for this come down to the perhaps superficial quality of memorability and the less superficial presence of follow-up, which may very well contribute to memorability. What do I mean?
I mean that after watching the TED interview, I could barely recall anything interesting being said, even though it went on for 20 minutes. It just wasn’t memorable, because the interviewer never seemed to stray from his script — he seemed to have questions he planned on asking, and even when Assange’s answers were vague or not entirely to the point, he didn’t press him for clarification or ask any follow-up questions.
This is in stark contrast to Stewart and Colbert, who frequently used their interviewee’s own words against him in their follow-ups, pointing out inconsistencies and hypocrisies within their statements. Stewart even called up footage that directly contradicted Kramer’s claims, leaving him floundering for a way to save face. That’s memorable TV, and it’s a lot more informative than simply allowing someone to spout the party line without comment or criticism or context.