March
10th 2010
If Comrade PhysioProf produced the news . . .

Posted under: Uncategorized

He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more!  (WARNING:  the language is NSFW or children.  Just sayin’.)  Via The Daily Beast:

How many of us can relate to the “expert” in this video?  “I spent my entire life attending the nation’s most prestigious schools to talk about bull$h!t like this.  I’m really just happy to be on TV.”  Awesome!

I’ve actually been on a documentary on TV.  (Well, in Canada, anyway!)  I’ve been invited to appear in others, but they seemed kind of dodgy.  As in, “we’re just looking for some chimp to sit in front of a bookshelf and read our script,” no input from me necessary.  Sorry–not interested.  Who else has experience with appearing on TV as a talking head?  Confess!  (And provide a link so we can check you out, if you’re comfortable with that.)

22 Comments »

22 Responses to “If Comrade PhysioProf produced the news . . .”

  1. Eileen on 10 Mar 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    I’ve never been on a documentary (still in grad school, no one cares what I think–yet!). But both my advisor and one of my major committee members have been on big name TV documentaries while I’ve been in grad school, and there’s been more pressure to watch their 3 minute TV spots than to read their books!

  2. truffula on 10 Mar 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    As a matter of fact, TV, radio (interview and talk radio), print, you name it. My work is supported by federal agencies and I figure that in addition to being a (mostly) rollicking good time, it’s an obligation. When I worked at a federal agency, I was told they liked me for this stuff because I was “reliable,” a comment I understood to mean “don’t stray off the reservation, Missy.” And that was during the Clinton administation!

  3. Comrade PhysioProf on 10 Mar 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

  4. life_of_a_fool on 10 Mar 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    I, and my former job, was the subject of a newspaper column written by a former neighbor. I was hoping that formal media-relations rules would prevent me from doing it, while still remaining neighborly, but no such luck. At least it was an obscure column. I’ve had a few other media requests, but they lose interest if you don’t respond immediately (which I consider a good thing, since I generally try to avoid the media as much as possible).

  5. Susan on 10 Mar 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    I was once interviewed for a British history program, but when we saw the final one, they used my words, but had it as the voice over….

  6. Indyanna on 10 Mar 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    I did a couple of local/state-level equivalents of “Book Talk” when my book came out. Students for ages thereafter would say “I saw you at 3 in the morning…” but I never saw them, except for the tape they gave me. I did one more-produced “talking head” type thing which involved going up to NYC and spending a whole day at it, and only thought to ask for travel reimbursement. Then I learned they flew a Certified Bigfoot in from the West Coast for another segment and I’m sure ze never thought to NOT ask for an honorarium. I never saw that one when it was on-air, not having a TV, and now I can’t even remember what the thing was–much less provide a link! But I know I knocked at least a couple of the questions out of the park, and this was Van Cortlandt Park!

  7. History Punk on 11 Mar 2010 at 1:10 am #

    I was once interviewed by a Baltimore news station for a people on the street interview about global warming, because we all know how valid the random opinions of random people no relevant credentials or scholarship are.

    Anyway, I told the reporter that I accept global warming because of the evidence. She asked what evidence. I began with,

    Well, the first thing is the scientific consensus on the issue. If you look at the scientific historiography on the topic, you see that, despite some outliers in the scholarship from dubious sources, the scientific community has moved continuously toward the AGW explanation for the planet’s increase in temperature.

    At that point, she cut me off declaring to the camera guy, “historiography” “outliers,” we can’t use that.” She then turned and nodded me off the “set” saying to turn in at five to see my interview.

    What really sucked was I texted everybody on my phone, friends, family, a guy who gave me his number a year before for communication during a group project and that I forgot to delete telling them that I’d be on TV.

  8. Feminist Avatar on 11 Mar 2010 at 3:52 am #

    In my homeland, as a grad student (picked because they wanted someone to represent the students), I took part in a televised discussion on the Top Ten events in X nation’s history. It was a bit contrived as we had to decide the top ten from a list of 30 compiled by them, which included things such as the national sport (that’s a historical event? not when you’ve never won anything it ain’t) and the national drink (again- an event??) or forgot to include industrialisation (which is a reasonably big deal is this country) or which divided immigration into different ethnic groups or waves, as if we could assess which was more important. Then they filmed us (a group of over-educated historians) arguing about this for nine hours and cut it down to an hour long show (which of course had lots of fluff, like intros and summaries etc), where what made the final cut was pithy soundbites, rather actual historical assessments. But you live and learn.

  9. Lance on 11 Mar 2010 at 6:34 am #

    That was an awesome clip!

    I was in a documentary on race a few years back. I’d been recommended as a viewer of the rough cuts – they were struggling with the middle episode of a three part film, and someone somewhere thought I might be helpful. I can’t say that I was. But they decided to rewrite some of the stuff, and they needed an extra talking head, so they brought me up to Boston to be interviewed in this urban chic apartment they’d rented. I suppose it was fun, and every once in a while, someone will show the documentary here and a student will say, “Hey, that’s my professor!” I haven’t watched it since it was released and I’ve never used it in a class. I think I sound like an idiot. I also can’t imagine why I chose to wear *that* shirt or *those* glasses. I thought it was hilarious, though, that we shot it in someone else’s place.

  10. squadratomagico on 11 Mar 2010 at 8:41 am #

    I was interviewed on a radio station once. It was an awful experience – it was supposed to be about the history of family and genealogy. They had booked a local woman who had traced her family history for several generations, and then started a genealogy club or something: she was supposed to be the main event. I was brought in to discuss the historical side of things — basic family history issues from the Middle Ages. I was given an initial screening by an assistant who was smart, asked good questions, and listened well to my answers, so I felt confident going in.
    Unfortunately, the whole event was a disaster from start to finish. The other guest didn’t show up on time, so they had to pull me in first and try to kill time for half an hour. Only, since I wasn’t the main guest, the slick interviewer hadn’t actually read any background on my area of expertise, or prepared any questions! We had to wing it, and he had no idea what to ask. Even worse, he seemed to be unable to conceive that my area of expertise was soooo loooong ago. He kept on asking me about the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and I kept on saying, “Actually, the changes I’m talking about happened in the eighth and ninth centuries. Then he’d give me a funny look and ask about the 19C- again. It was as if he couldn’t actually conceive of something that far away in time.
    Finally, the other guest showed up and was ushered in, so all three of us were in the studio. The host was visibly relieved… The other guest was a very frail, but very enthusiastic older woman who went on at great length, in a reedy voice, about the details of her own family history. The host seemed dismayed at her, too, but at least they were on the same page about dates and times.

  11. squadratomagico on 11 Mar 2010 at 8:51 am #

    O! Just watched the video! Lovely!

  12. Historiann on 11 Mar 2010 at 9:03 am #

    Squadrato–at least you were on the radio, so you could roll your eyes and no one would be the wiser! (Except for the duma$$ radio guy, of course.)

    I really enjoyed my experience with Captive. The filmmaker and writer had interviewed me several times over the course of 18 months, and I think my ideas really shaped their movie. My only–well, complaint is too strong a word (regret perhaps?)–is that I was shot in a historic 18th C house, where there’s a visibly unmade 18th C bed prominent in the background. (Other scholars were shot outdoors, or without the bed visible.) So, it rather looks like I just rolled out of bed and sat for an interview! But, I do look a lot better than a certain extremely prominent historian in my field who shall remain nameless here, who wore a baseball cap for his interview. (It looked pretty tacky to me, anyway, but then I’d never be caught dead wearing a ballcap myself.)

  13. John S. on 11 Mar 2010 at 9:07 am #

    Wait–I know two prominent historians who wear baseball caps to professional events (conferences and such) all the time. They happen to root for the same team–a certain team that ended its “curse” right before you published A in A. Should I guess which historian wore it for the interview (I think I can), or are more clues forthcoming?

  14. John S. on 11 Mar 2010 at 9:21 am #

    I knew it! Perhaps this means I will wear a Phillies 2008 World Champions hat next time I am interviewed (though probably only on the radio!). I just couldn’t pull it off on video.

  15. Historiann on 11 Mar 2010 at 9:38 am #

    the Phillies won the World Series? Srsly?

    (I gotta pay better attention.)

    I think that since you still have hair, you can skip the ballcaps. (Unless you want people to think you’re hiding something!) Men your age with full heads of hair should wear them proudly, IMHO.

  16. John S. on 11 Mar 2010 at 11:50 am #

    What? You *didn’t* watch the World Series? The first time the Phillies won since 1980? (One of the joys of my childhood?!) And, of course, the deciding game was the only time there’s been a suspended game in WS history? When restarted Game 5 two days later I didn’t sit for the entire three innings. I was pleasantly surprised when Philadelphia didn’t blow it.

    (Of course, then they lost to A-Roid and the Yankees last year in the WS. Yankees s**k!)

    Ball caps on camera are weird. I mean, I can see 1) showing you’re a fan; 2) keeping the sun out of your eyes (a big deal in our semi-desert summers); or 3) keeping the sun off of your head (ditto, when it’s 110 degrees–head sunburn is lame). But inside? Oh wait–most of us would just be weird. Major prize winning historians can be….eccentric.

  17. truffula on 11 Mar 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    We had to wing it, and he had no idea what to ask.

    A TV morning show host once told me “I get to care about your topic for about 5 minutes and then I have to move on” as we were prepping between commercials, making sure his understanding of the main points was solid. I appreciated his frankness about the nature of his job. The time scale is longer on talk radio but in my experience, and Squadratomagico’s too it seems, that does not in and of itself imply better preparation on the part of the host.

    I really do wish that a wider range of academics were in the public media. I get that it can be frustrating and time consuming and that we are trained to look down our serious noses at our “attention-seeking” peers. But it matters that academics seem relevant and accessible. We live in a time when the university and the pursuit of knowledge are being devalued. A college education is these days less about becoming a well-rounded thinker and more about obtaining a certification needed for future employment. We need, I think, to be mindful about our own PR.

  18. Rob_in_Hawaii on 11 Mar 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    So far, no documentarian or other media type has asked me to throw in my two cents on camera about anything dealing with my area of scholarly expertise.

    But about 20 years ago I attended a talk by the tattoo artist Ed Hardy. Afterward, an ABC Nightly News producer did ask if it was okay if they filmed a close-up of a large tattoo of a blue macaw that I had recently had done on my upper arm. My mom was aghast when she saw it but at least I wasn’t filmed in front of an unmade bed.

  19. Historiann on 11 Mar 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    truffula writes, “We need, I think, to be mindful about our own PR.” I think that’s right. I don’t know of anyone who has turned down an opportunity to talk to the media–as the comments above suggest, most of us are willing to give it a go. But, most people who do this also see their ideas simplified or even distorted when squeezed through the teevee (or radio, or print). Journalism and scholarship have very different goals–the trick is to try to serve each other where we can. (That is, scholars should serve journalists when we can, and vice-versa.)

  20. Your Webmaster on 11 Mar 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    I got to talk on an area cable news channel about raising tons of disaster-relief $$ online (a relatively novel thing in 2004).

    I hadn’t shaved in a week and looked like hell (since I’d been raising tons of cash online).

    The producer thought we should film in some random co-worker’s office — only because it was filled with vaguely African tchotchkes (the NGO equivalent of the bookcase).

    I was indeed handed (verbally, at least) a script. In particular, the producer wanted me to talk about how giving online was “kind of like an impulse item at a cash register.” (To this day, I have no idea what that means.)
    I glanced at my media relations co-worker, who was already scowling. We politely declined.

    Was I just happy to be on TV? I admit — it was fun. But I’d completely forgotten about it until this post jarred my memory.

  21. Historiann on 11 Mar 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Hey, Webmaster–we are honored by your presence.

    Your story is pretty HI-llarious, and a little sad. Kind of like a Big-Eye painting of a sad clown. (Love your description of “the NGO equivalent of the bookcase.”)

  22. Ruth on 11 Mar 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    I’ve been on the History Channel three times–brief snippets of interview each time–and they replay these shows a lot. People are always saying to my kids “Oh, I saw your mom on TV at three in the morning” and the response is “Was that the show on sex or the show on violence?” Each of these shows interviewed a number of scholars, but the ones who got a lot of facetime were the ones who gave usable soundbites and didn’t hedge with things like “Well, we don’t really have enough evidence to say for sure . . . ” On one of the shows the producers had really done their homework, read the work of the people they interviewed and asked good questions, but on the others, not so much.

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