Admit it, we all have our pet hates. Mine are too many to mention. But I’m particularly bugged by a new one. Listen to almost any broadcast media interview – TV, radio, podcast – and you’re likely to hear the interviewee begin by excitedly proclaiming “Thanks for having me!”. This tendency has crept in steadily during the past decade, at first gradually, latterly becoming ubiquitous, seemingly spreading faster than the coronavirus.
I’m not sure how the infection started. I think we can rule out a sudden outbreak of politeness, since the opposite seems to be the case for other forms of public discourse in the social media era. My hunch is that professional media training is the initial source. Presumably some former hack, gainfully employed teaching fledging advocates how best to get their point across, found members of focus groups responded favourably to interviewees who sounded grateful to be on the airwaves. If so, I reckon there are probably as many people who, like me, immediately dismiss the views of those who express such fawning gratitude.
When my children were young, their friends would invariably say “thanks for having me” at the end of a party or the morning after a sleepover. This was rightly courteous and I expected my own kids to behave likewise. But adults conversing in the public sphere should grow up and demonstrate greater confidence in themselves.
People are invited onto TV or radio programmes because the producers of such programmes consider their contribution of some value in terms of expertise or news worthiness. They are not being offered a favour or treat, so why behave as if they are?
I fear this reflects a wider trend toward thinking of news and current affairs broadcasting as a branch of the entertainment industry. The wag who once quipped that politics is showbiz for ugly people might now also conclude that media appearances give a taste of c-list celebrity to academics, experts and commentators. Worst of all in this respect is the egotistical contributor who flags-up an appearance with pre or post interview tweets, maybe with a selfie alongside their interviewer thrown in for good measure.
I long for a return to seriousness, with interviewees aware that they have both a serious role to perform and are deserving of being heard because they bring something important to the interview. Assuming this task is fulfilled, it is the interviewer, and the listener, who should be giving thanks.