This morning on Twitter I asked “Why do interview subjects say ‘that’s a great question’? I’ve never said that, and never understood it.”
The question brought some interesting responses from journalists themselves, the questioners-being-praised (I’ve corrected some spelling errors to protect the innocent):
Dave Atkinson, freelance journalist:
gives you about seven seconds to think of a real answer. It’s more verbal punctuation than anything.
there are also a bunch of conventions in “tape/talks”, that don’t exist in real conversations. “Well, host-name, blah blah blah…”
I’ve also heard it used in a “oh god, I’ve been asked this so many times” kind of way.
Piya Chattopadhya, CBC Radio and TV Ontario host:
generally their brain is telling them to buy time cuz they don’t know what to say
Steve Rukavina, CBC Montreal reporter (and my brother):
it’s usually a pretty clear signal to me when I’m interviewing that they have no intention of actually answering the question
Kerry Campbell, CBC Prince Edward Island reporter:
I think politicians & bureaucrats told to do that as part of media training. Trying to butter up interviewers? Sound conciliatory?
I remember when the training started to include “say the interviewer’s name as often as possible.” I could live without that
Jessica Doria-Brown, video journalist for CBC Prince Edward Island:
They say it because they think it will butter you up. Instead, it often comes off as condescending and smarmy.
Taken in sum, there’s pretty clear guidance for we-the-potentially-interviewed to simply stop doing this.
You have been warned.