Experts' less-than-winning behaviors were catalogued by NPR's Richard Harris, who sees three main categories of experts that are tough to interview:
- The unintelligible scientist, to whom he suggests slowing down, offers analogies, or just cajoles them to use simpler language. Harris does a "truth check" at the interview's end by saying "Let me be sure I have this right: Are you saying..." with a paraphrase that he hopes will do the simplifying.
- The recalcitrant scientist, who often retreats into repeating talking points, perhaps because the topic is controversial. Harris says he'll avoid asking a two-part question in favor of direct single queries, remind the expert "You didn't answer my question," or just wait quietly to get them to fill the void of silence with more remarks.
- The egotist expert, like the sociologist who greeted his call by saying "Good thing you called. I am the world authority on this topic and this is a story you have to tell." (That genius was left out of the piece that aired.) Experts who demand their entire remarks be included, and those whose competition with rival groups is evident also fall into this category for Harris.
- Picky: Those who challenge reporters from outlets other than the experts' favorite with "Why should I talk to you?"
- Paranoid: Those who conduct interviews with several people--and tape recorders--in the room. His record? A White House interview with 6 people and 6 tape recorders present.
- Burned: Experts who've been burned by a bad experience with a previous reporter that they remember for the rest of their career.
- Mispoken and defiant: The expert who misspeaks but claims the reporter has misquoted him. Leary told of one expert who demanded a retraction, and when a tape of the interview was played back to him, kept saying, "I didn't say that" after hearing what he actually said...until he admitted "I didn't mean to say that."
- The eloquent dodger: An expert capable of sustaining a long interview full of eloquent phrases but no substance or facts.