Scripted network news?

I’ve attended several local news shows, and everything was read from a teleprompter, except for the occasional personal banter. Is it that way with, say, CNN? When Anderson Cooper is interviewing a politician or a reporter in Libya, how much of what we hear is scripted? Obviously the interviewer knows what questions he’ll ask, and the politician/reporter probably has an idea of what will be asked . . . but are they actually reading from teleprompters?

I’m thinking that in “real life,” if someone were being asked a lot of questions, there’d be a certain amount of “Oh, I don’t know, I never really thought about that” in the mix. But you rarely see that on TV (aside from Sarah Palin).

The vast majority of what you see on the TV news is, in fact, scripted. It has to be, because the anchor and/or reporter has to make sure that facts are reported correctly, and that the story is coherently told. In fact, much of the training I got in journalism school is in writing, including how to write a story under pressure. If necessary, I could probably write a story in 10 minutes or so. Believe me, being on the air is harder than it looks, and going on without a script or some idea of what you’re going to say is suicide.

The interviewer also does his homework to know what to ask, and the best ones (like Anderson Cooper or Terry Gross) know when to deviate from the prepared questions and go in a different direction if the guest brings up an interesting point that should be examined further. The worst interviewers don’t deviate from the prepared questions at all, and sound stupid as a result.

That being said, there is a certain amount of negotiation involved when a guest is asked to be on an interview show. There may be ground rules established so there won’t be any gotcha questions, and, frankly, any politician who voluntarily goes on one of these shows has likely been prepped by his people so they know how to answer any expected questions without sounding stupid. The issue with Sarah Palin, however, was that she wasn’t prepared well for the Couric interviews, and I think there was a certain amount of assumption on the McCain campaign’s part that Couric would be lobbing softball questions, so there was no need to prepare. Naturally, Ms. Palin claimed bias on Ms. Couric’s part and blamed her for her poor performance.

Also note that interviews, such as those by Terry Gross, are heavily edited to remove any hesitations, hiccups, repetition, etc. On the Media, I think, did a show in which they illustrated how extensively public radio interviews are edited to make everything sound good.

It is the same thing on talk shows - there is a “pre-interview”, often given by a staff member covering basic questions and then asking if there is anything that the interviewee might want to mention or talk about.
In talk shows, this gives the host a lot to choose from and gives the guest some idea of where the conversation is going. It makes for a comfortable interview.

I do the same thing in one exercise in my speech class (will be doing this next week as a matter of fact). I do this to show students that if they are comfortable with the subject material, they are far more at ease when talking in front of a group. It is amazing how even the shyest of student will open up and talk when asked about a subject they care about, or at least know what they are talking about.

BTW, in that speech class I also tell them that an abundance of “uh’s and um’s” means the person is caught off guard, is not prepared and is thinking of an answer on the spot. In an impromptu interview with an athlete after the game, this is common, but generally not a good habit for politicians or “experts”, as it shows they have no idea what they should say.

Then there’s what Hippy Hollow encountered in his ~15 minute radio interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation - he explains in post #38 that he didn’t talk with the host ahead of time, and was just asked to speak about black marriage (he cowrote a book on the topic). So I would guess his interviewer had questions she’d written out ahead of time, but he didn’t know what they would be. They also took callers’ questions as well.

I used to edit interviews, and it’s painstaking work to make sure that everything is coherent and smooth. I think, at one point, I told the host to re-record his questions because most of the work was editing his part. :smack:

One thing I forgot to point out is that frequent talk-show guests have a track record, and a rather public one at that. For example, if Jenny McCarthy is asked to be on Anderson Cooper to talk about her new Oscar-nominated movie, he’d better prepare to fend off possible segues into her anti-vaccination crusade, because she’s been on enough other shows and talked about that.