Them's the Breaks

Dear Viewers,

Here are two e-mails from viewers Tuesday night. Frankly, I don't disagree with them. Read them and then read my explanation:

No. 1

Greta, I've been reluctant to comment on this for a long time because I figured "production is production." But tonight it was really maddening. Perhaps even rude.
I refer to the way you often abruptly cut off a guest just as s/he is getting to a point or explaining something terribly interesting. Tonight it was Duane "Dewey" Clarridge. You asked him a question, he was giving a fascinating answer/explanation, and you abruptly said you were getting a signal that you had to go. Right in the middle of one of his sentences.

No. 2

This is probably out of your control, but it is very irritating to have one of your interesting guests get cut off in the middle of an interesting commentary. Subject at point: the former CIA man who was talking about the hunt for Abas. He just got part of the story out and you were forced to cut him off. You had no choice, but someone in the Fox organization should realize how annoying this is to your listeners. I was very disappointed in the instance I refer to, because it was very pertinent and interesting. Please pass this to whoever it is at Fox who calls such shots. This sort of thing happens too often on all Fox programs.

I responded to the e-mailers personally telling them both I agree with them. I hate to cut guests off. It is horrible. I appreciate people showing up to talk about issues and the last thing I want to do is be rude.

Here is my practical problem: I have to end certain segments, for different reasons on different nights, at a certain point. In the studio a stage manager holds up cue cards behind the camera which read, for example, "90," "One Minute," "30," "15" (and there should be one that reads, "you are cooked" because you did not get out on time!). If the segment is the "hard" break -- meaning I have no flexibility -- the stage manager holds up the time card AND a card that says in big block letters: HARD. It means there are no choices, get out, or have the "computer" cut you off cold.

Tuesday night Duane Clarridge -- who was a great guest -- was asked a question with about one minute to go in a hard break segment. That is usually more than enough time to answer. His answer was intriguing, but unfortunately more than the time I had left. Well, you know what happened. I had to cut him off. When we went to break I felt terrible and asked my New York-based producer to apologize, since I was not able to do so (he was not in the same studio with me).

Later in the show, at the second hard break, the stage manager got confused. He held up two signs at the same time for me: "One Minute" and "90." The cards were facing me and away from him, so he was unaware of his sign contents. What he INTENDED to hold up was "one minute" and "hard," but I did not know and could not ask since I was on camera. I am not sure the viewers at home want to hear me say on air, "What do your signs mean?" Thus, I was doing the segment trying to figure out how much time while I was simultaneously interviewing my guests.

As I did the interviews, I tried to get the stage manager's attention to find out what he really intended. It was clear to me the signs were wrong but I did not know what they meant. I wanted him to see the front side of the cards he was flashing at me so that he could recognize the problem and fix it. Did he mean "90" and "One Minute" -- and thus two minutes, 30 seconds? In two plus years doing this show, I had never seen him (or another stage manager) hold up these two cards together -- they did not make sense to me -- and I was desperately trying to figure out what he meant. Regrettably he was not looking my way at the times I knew I was off camera (e.g. the camera was on Stan Goldman, or someone else remote) and thus did not see my hand signals for help. Bottom line: I was in trouble.

I continued to do the segment and started to ask KFI Radio’s Laura Ingle a question. No sooner had I started to ask her a question when I got the message that I had to immediately end the segment. I thus did and it looked pretty rude of me before I could finish the question or get an answer from her. Fortunately I know Laura (she has been on our show several times and I have met her in person covering the Peterson trial when I was in Modesto) and I am sure she understands the problems we sometimes face in TV.

Many anchors don't bring the guests' answer up to the break like I do. When they get the signal "30 Seconds" the anchors simply talk their way out of the segments so it is smoother and so that there is no risk of cutting off the guest. I suppose that is one good solution but I want to hear from my guests. I try and squeeze one last answer out of them. I also figure that you, the viewer, is more interested in my guests than in my vamp out of a segment. You turn in to hear the guest, not me.

P.S. I love my stage manager. It was just a mistake and I make far more than he does. That was his first.


Do you have something you'd like to say to Greta? Please write to her at!

Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET