A couple people have asked me questions like this about my Ira Glass interview, so I thought I'd answer here on the blog. Paulscan on AST asked:
Another great interview, but I had a question. Usually, your interviews are edited very well and sound like (exceedingly witty) normal conversations. However, I noticed a lot more pauses before Ira's answers to your questions (which are, of course, a part of every conversation). Is it your normal practice to edit those kinds of things out? If so, why didn't you do it for this interview? This struck me as odd, especially in light of your raised concerns with the Improv Everywhere TAL shows, as well as the questions about narrative storytelling, news framing, etc.
Not trying to imply anything here, just curious.
I would say those kinds of pauses are very unusual, and are not part of every conversation. They were unusual enough, in fact, that I decided to leave them in. I think they reflect the thought that Ira put in to his answers.
Generally speaking, my interviews are VERY lightly edited. If I have time, I'll edit out maybe a few stumbles in speach on the part of my guest, but generally it's almost the whole interview, almost exactly as it happened live. For radio I will sometimes edit out a question (or a line of questioning) for time, but I usually leave it in in the podcast.
This is pretty unusual in public radio -- I make the choice to do this in large part because I'm a one-man band, so I lack both the perspective and time to do a really big editing job like some shows with similar formats (say Fresh Air or On the Media) do. I'm certainly not at all against that, I just don't have the resources. Fresh Air, for example, will often (not always) do an hour or more for an interview that runs at 40 or 20 minutes. Which is awesome for them, they have a big staff of the best producers and editors in the business. I might do it that way if I could, I dunno. For many years TSOYA was live, and I still kind of operate the show that way, only now I can edit out swears.
The only show that I can think of where I've done a lot of editing of dead air is the Betty Davis show, but if I had left in all the dead air there was in that interview, no one would have listened. She hadn't really spoken publicly in like 30 years and is a very private woman, so I felt it was more important to help people listen than to play all these loooooooooooooooong pauses.
A few folks have also asked me (in a very friendly manner) about how tough I was on Ira in the interview. Generally speaking, I'm not "tough" on guests. In part this is because I'm often introducing them to most of my audience, and I think that introduction is more important than "sticking it" to someone. If I really disagreed with someone about something, I just wouldn't book them. That said, I was kind of tough with Ira.
Now let's be clear: I don't think I've ever hidden my affection for This American Life. I think it's the best radio show in history. It is a large part of what made me think a career in public radio might actually work out. As a general rule, I love the shit out of This American Life. So ... that's out of the way.
The reason I asked Ira about storytelling and the relationship between truth and narrative in the interview is that it is A) important and B) the connection between TAL and Ira's book. The book (which is great) is designed as a mini-manifesto about reporting. I also knew that Ira has thought about this issue, because all the choices Ira made in creating TAL come from 20 years of working in public radio news before the show even started. Working with Joe Frank and Noah Adams and whoever else gave him plenty of opportunity to think out his philosophy, and I wanted to hear it. Furthermore, any regular listener of TAL has heard it move towards "hard news" in the past five years or so, and I knew that was a choice, and wanted to know about it.
In other words: I wanted to know the answers to those questions, and I was betting Ira'd have some good ones. Which I thought he did. He could have played the "I'm Ira Glass, and You're Not" card, but instead he chose to give really thoughtful answers to those questions. He's forgotten more about these issues than I'll ever know, so I was glad to hear what he had to say.