Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of


Who ever says scientists are the only people prone to speak in dense, uninterrupted prose, do remind them that thinkers and pundits of all fields are equally guilty.

Consider this recent interview by Stephen Colbert with Matthew Guerrieri, a classical music critic and contributor to the Boston Globe.

Skip to the 1:45 mark:

Guerrieri admitted to being a little nervous ahead of the interview — though really, who wouldn’t be facing an interviewer like Colbert? And I don’t mean to criticize Guerrieri’s performance nor his expertise as an arts critic.

But I did smile as I watched Guerrieri’s nearly two-minute, mega-soundbite explaining the thrust of his new book, First Four Notes: Beethoven’s Fifth and the Human Imagination, and how the German Romantic movement embraced Beethoven and his Symphony No. 5 as the embodiment of their ethos.

Two minutes is an eternity on TV and radio.

Colbert wisely permitted Guerrieri to complete his full train of thought. But what’s more endearing is Colbert’s response afterwards — not merely his gentle teasing right after Guerrieri stops talking, but his attempt to rephrase the message and say it back to Guerrieri

“Say it back” is a skill many science journalists use to make sure they themselves actually understood whatever concept an expert just explained to them. This is also a good way to make sure that your own version of the explanation is accurate, by letting the expert approve it right then and there. Skip to the 3:45 mark to watch.

Colbert gave it his best shot, and smiled: “What did I just say, mean?”

Love it.

— Ben Young Landis

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One thought on “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

  1. Pingback: Resources: Scicomm & science journalism | Beyond the Written Word:

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