Sunday, August 8, 2010

Communications and how it’s not happening!

I follow several cable news programs and pay attention to news broadcasts quite a bit. One point that truly brothers me is how inept many TV personalities are when it comes to interviewing people. I was watching a fascinating forum show tonight about the recently enacted federal health care legislation and listened as the host asked leading questions, one after another. Leading questions can be useful if you’re trying to get the responder to answer in a certain direction, but which is not desirable in my opinion.

Another frustrating characteristic of some hosts is to expound greatly about his, or her, opinion and then at long last ask a guest what his opinion is. The shows I’ve seen on cable news networks usually have a profoundly obvious political position or position on the topic at hand. We know their views well.

I was a systems analyst for many years and know well that listening is rated as being 90% of good communications. That meant for me to do my job and discover what my clients needs, I had to listen to them and try and draw out as much information as possible. Most times, there had to be several such sessions with an individual before my thoughts about the needs and requirements were fully understood. That included feedback sessions where I would try and express my understandings and determine where corrections or changes were needed.

Well, that approach, the systems analyst method, wouldn’t work for the typical time-constrained show. Yet, the concept of listening is very applicable. Too often, a host will ramble on about his views and then leave the last little bit of an interview segment for the guest to respond. O’Reilly, Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, and Brewer are just some hosts who demonstrate that propensity of gabbiness rather than listening to the guest.

What my frustration is that many times the guests have something of value that we, the viewers, might want to hear. But, that something is lost for that moment and might be discovered down the road. Yet sometimes never does come for everything.

The age we live in now is exciting and perhaps even interesting (That old Chinese curse then again!) with the wealth of information available to us. The internet has opened up vast amount of information and raw data, sometimes too vast for many of us. The 24-hour news cable channels also have tended to bombard us with tons of same information, data, opinion, burying us potentially. So, it might come down to knowing what is information, what is opinion, and what is propaganda?

Still, there’s one saving grace and that is the internet itself. While an Olbermann or an O’Reilly might hold down the balance on one side or another, regarding an issue, the internet acts as a counterbalance, lending transparency, exposing propaganda attempts. A recent example was the famed Shirley Sherrod episode, where a fuller accounting of what in fact occurred was made possible via the internet’s many differing outlets.

Still, good interviewing techniques will facilitate better communications and improve our understanding of complex current events. With the federal government seeming wanting to improve its direction of our lives, we need all the help we can get. And, listening remains 90% of communications. So, O’Reilly, Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, and Brewer, as just some examples, need to listen up and improve their otherwise miserable score in the communications race.

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