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Why this Canadian journalist prefers an American for interviews

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Individualism: belief that the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society or group

– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

For an interview I’ll take an American before a Canadian.

I was a TV producer in Toronto, I’m Canadian born and raised. My perspective is shaped by searching for experts in Canada and the United States and living on three continents.

Here is why this Canadian journalist prefers an American:

1. Direct

On TV or radio time is counted in seconds. Americans are better at speaking without preamble or qualifiers. The greater focus on ‘me’ in the US, individualism is a more academic way of saying it, helps them get to the heart of the matter quicker.

As (Canadian) media theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote: TV is a ‘hot’ medium, one that engages ones senses completely. Direct works better in a ‘hot’ medium.

Pro Tip: Instruct experts to be blunt. I like the word blunt as for the people who need to be told this are far from it. It doesn’t lead to them going over the top and the potential pushback is a sign that they are reflecting. Hesitation can lead to a bad interview. Experts of depth have knowledge to share but can be unnecessarily hesitant; therefore, it helps to let them know that being direct is a good thing.

2. State Your Viewpoint

Americans are more forthcoming with their point of view. While explaining what is happening in the field more generally is useful, a journalist doesn’t want a guest who then avoids giving their own point of view in order to play it safe.

A positive or negative viewpoint has more impact, an opinion that is devoid of any position can make for a terrible interview. If there are no differences of opinion it’s rare that the topic will be in reported on. Nuanced perspectives work as well as they still require taking a position, not avoiding one.

A technique by academics is cloaking themselves in the works and opinions of others.

Pro Tip: Tell an expert to give his/her opinion. It needs to be clear that their personal insight is the secret sauce. People want to do well in an interview, it’s embarrassing to be a bad guest, and they appreciate the help even if they nervously push back on a suggestion.

3. Power of Media

Getting your point of view to a larger audience via the media in the United States is seen as more valuable than in Canada. On average US experts and their organizations are more willing to allocate their time and resources towards media. This makes booking an American guest easier.

4. Belief

Communicating in a way that comes across as believing your own words makes for a more believable expert. It’s the journalist’s job to determine who is a good interviewee rather than who is full of hot air. While there are numerous examples of hot air that is presented in the media as balanced and factual this is a reflection of the journalist and media outlet, not the expert per se.