Friday, July 25, 2014


Just a short late night judgment. I haven't watched Charlie Rose in a while until tonight when I caught an interview with Jeff Koons. I never really liked Rose's interview style. He somehow got this reputation as a great interviewer because his show is set up in a way that makes it seem almost pure in its approach (around a table with iconic cultural figures and supposed intellectuals etc.) and quiet minimalism.

Despite the  fact he uses notes like everyone else, he seems to either quickly become redundant, like he forgot he already posed that question or one almost exactly like it, or fails to follow up (or through) on an interviewee's statement that raises interesting questions never asked...etc. Also, I met him once at a TV awards show in L.A. and he was sloshed and I can't help when I see him on TV wondering if he's a little bombed and that's why he's repeating himself or just stating the obvious.

Whereas with John Hockenberry, I listen to his public radio show, called "The Take Away," on WNYC in New York pretty much every day and consider him the best interviewer in contemporary media. He always seems to immediately grasp what the person he's interviewing means and restates it in a way that any listener can understand—in case they didn't get it—and then asks a follow up question that either challenges that or takes it to the next level, and keeps doing that until the segment's over where he draws it to a conclusion that either summarizes the main point or draws his own insightful conclusion that's "the take away."

I wonder if he hasn't been asked to have his own show on TV only because he's in a wheelchair (and has been as far as I know his whole life) or has deliberately chosen NPR for the latitude it gives him to shape his show the way he wants and to do the kinds of swift, informative and smart interviews that always leave me informationally and intellectually satisfied.


-K- said...

My problem with Rose is that he seems too comfortable in his world, never willing to challenge anyone in power and having no empathy for people who don't.

Robert Berner said...

Lal--Rose always seemed to me to have ambitions to being the next Bill Moyers, but he was never smart enough for that. As to not challenging anyone in power, you can't do that and keep your job for long in mainstream media, especially network TV. So now Rose is ensconced on the TODAY show. Maybe he now harbors fantasies of becoming the next Tom Brokaw.
Bob B.

richard lopez said...

for my money, the better interviewer is Neil Conan, of the late, and much missed NPR daily show, TALK OF THE NATION. Conan was a brilliant interviewer, very smart, and quite quick. I miss TALK OF THE NATION, particularly POLITICAL WEDNESDAY and lament how our local NPR affiliate got on the cheap and added a few fluff shows like TEST KITCHEN.

I think rose is okay. I stopped watching his show years ago.

Lally said...

Another NPR interviewer I love is Michelle Martin on TELL ME MORE, but unfortunately it's been canceled. They say it's because it wasn't getting enough listeners because it focuses often on African-American guests and panels, but the topics were always of interest to me and I'm an old white man. Tavis Smiley, who they claim is broader in his approach is too bombastic for me (and too slick and too self-centered etc.) whereas Martin is always understated and generous but on target. I'll miss her.