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Talk Show Talk: The Practices of Interviewing on Daytime and Late-Night


In the last twenty-five years the media has undergone major changes, moving fully from a broadcast model to cable and beyond. One effect of this change has been shifts in how politicians reach voters, particularly when campaigning. This has lead to politicians seeking out voters in venues that would have previously been considered beneath the dignity of their office. This, along with other shifts, has lead some critics to suggest that news is becoming corrupted, but others have suggested that news in merely evolving along with technology and culture. This project seeks to understand some of these shifts by investigating both entertainment talk shows, which have become a locus of political interviews, as well as interviews on cable news. Using qualitative and quantitative methods this project seeks to chart the norms of the talk show interview, how these norms shift in the face of a political interviewee, and how cable news norms differ from or not broadcast news norms. Using conversation analysis, chapter three of this dissertation finds two norms drive the talk show: personalization and congeniality. These contrast with the norms that drive news interviewing: neutralism and adversarialness. In the chapter four interviews are coded and compared statistically, showing that when a political guest appears on a talk show a mix of norms are used. The norm most closely associated with the genre, personalization, remains strong, while the norm more associated with the treatment of the guest, congeniality, is more likely to be dropped in favor of its news counterpart, adversarialness. In the fifth chapter, the same measures are used to compare broadcast and cable news, finding that there are few significant differences between the two.

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