Thursday, July 01, 2010

Is it Really Your Pleasure?

This blog rarely delves into the content of public radio programming. This is an exception.

Public radio is known for its relative politeness compared to other electronic media, sometimes to a fault. My colleague Sonja Lee refers to this as “public radio nice.” That’s when strong words and images would be more effective but they are softened because it wouldn’t sound as pleasant. It wouldn't sound public radio. It happens in news programs, in talk programs, and in fundraising.

A component of “public radio nice” is the phrase “my pleasure.” It shows up a lot in interviews, usually at the end when the program host thanks a guest for being on the air. It’s amazing what some guests get pleasure from talking about. A few examples:

14% unemployment in Racine, WI… “My pleasure.”
The Koreas moving closer to war… “My pleasure.”
Convicted sniper to be executed… “My pleasure.”
Top Kill fails, oil still gushes into Gulf… “My pleasure.”
Failed nation-building in Afghanistan… “My pleasure.”

Maybe these guests really do find it a pleasure to be discussing such issues. After all, they are getting national exposure for being experts in their fields.

I’d like to think that the use of the phrase “My pleasure” in these situations is no more than the guests’ automatic response to the host thanking them for their time, that it doesn't reflect a true sentiment. If so, there’s not much a producer can do when that happens in a live talk show. But why is it left on the back end of edited interviews where it is entirely inappropriate?

Have the editors thought this through? Do they really believe the guest is deriving pleasure from talking about difficult and sometimes tragic situations? Or is this just another example of trying to sweeten the air sound with a spoonful of “public radio nice?”

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7 Comments:

Anonymous John Proffitt said...

This is one of my pet peeves, too. I hate this convention. And it's not really the phrase itself that bothers me -- it's the iron-clad conventionality of it. You're pretty much guaranteed to hear it every time, and it's a meaningless thrown-in comment. We all KNOW it's meaningless, so we tolerate it. But it's still just so very wrong.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

The phrase that irks me most is, "Thanks so much". At the end of nearly every interview on All Things Considered, the host concludes, not by merely thanking the guest, or thanking the guest very much. No, it's "Thanks so much". It sounds overly polite.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that informing the public of news--even bad news--is something that warrants a response like "my pleasure." No one is saying that they take personal joy from the situation, but they are honored to have a forum for discussing or sharing what's going on in the world.

1:53 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Anonymous said "No one is saying that they take personal joy from the situation, but they are honored to have a forum for discussing or sharing what's going on in the world."

Okay, let's play this out. Why is it necessary to insert the guest's ego into the discussion? Why does that matter to the listener? How is it helpful?

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Kim Grehn said...

I really think the person being interviewed is thanking the host for the opportunity to express him or herself. In the case of the interviewer saying, "It's been a pleasure speaking with you," it might be a polite return. Is all of this necessary? Probably not. At the very least it is overused.
It's been a pleasure....oh darn!

8:23 AM  
Anonymous jake said...

Pet peeve for me too.

I've noticed the BBC for the most part skips these pleasantries for their two-ways and I really prefer that to the public radio niceties at the start and end of each short interview/report. It can be particularly bad at the start of round table talk shows when the host introduces each guest, thanks them for joining, and they then thank the host in turn. The BBC approach is quite unceremonious but keeps things moving by avoiding the wasted pleasantries.

It's a part of public radio patter that we should shed along with the most repeated conventions that start to sound like "make sure your seat back and folding trays are in their full upright position".

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming soon to All Things Considered:

"Thanks for that report, John."
"Go f**k yourself, Robert."

:-)

11:01 PM  

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