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What's with ABC?

I was just asked to do an interview for ABC's Guilt or Innocence spot, on a controversy involving the First Amendment. Sounds good; I like doing these things. As always, these gigs don't pay anything — perfectly fine by me.

To my surprise, though, while every other network I've dealt with sends a car to pick up and return the guest (based on my clear and fresh recollection, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC, but I'm sure that's been true of everyone else except perhaps the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer), the ABC people told me they didn't do this any more. What's more, their studio is way on the other side of Hollywood, which given afternoon traffic would likely be 45 minutes there and back.

If they had only sent a car, that would be one and a half hours that I could spend working. (Trust me, no-one wants this sort of a car for prestige, since there's no prestige to it; it's just a way of avoiding wasting more time than necessary.) If I have to drive myself, that would be one and a half hours that I'd spend driving through nasty traffic. And this so I can provide them a free service. I thus regretfully declined.

Seems like a pretty short-sighted move on ABC's part. They'll still get guests who have rarely done television, and see this as a great deal of fun. (I still see doing TV appearances as some fun, but not nearly as much as when I started.) They'll still get guests who have consulting careers they want to advance, or who are deeply ideologically invested in a position. But I suspect they'll lose quite a few people who are experienced, objective, and busy. Aren't those the very sorts of people they'd most want?

And, yes, I do see something amusing in a blogger complaining about a project that requires spending time with no payment . . . . Suffice it to say that blogging is fun, and driving isn't.

UPDATE: OK, score one for ABC, at least from my perspective: They're willing to have me on by phone, presumably with my picture on-screen. That might not be optimal television -- though given that they'll probably just have a sentence or two from me, I doubt it will matter much. But it sure is convenient for me.

Goober (mail):
...based on my clear and fresh recollection, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC...

Now you're just bragging.
8.2.2005 2:27pm
Baylen (www):
You sound like Larry David. (That's not a criticism -- I think he's great.)
8.2.2005 2:29pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
It's nothing to brag about: Professors who are interested in commenting about high-profile issues are going to be called by the media, especially if they've been at it for ten years. It doesn't mean that they're particularly smart or knowledgeable (most media people generally don't know who's good and who's not), just that they're available.
8.2.2005 2:49pm
Adam (www):
Hire a car, deduct it as a business expense.
8.2.2005 3:00pm
BillR:
You obviously need a better agent. Of course, the agent will take a cut - oh, wait... never mind...
8.2.2005 3:00pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
One word will explain why ABC is different: Disney.
8.2.2005 3:09pm
Larry (mail) (www):
When you get your research assistants to do things for you, do you send them a car ?
8.2.2005 3:31pm
Fern R (mail):
When you get your research assistants to do things for you, do you send them a car ?

LOL! Let me know where I can sign up for a research assistant position that includes a limo ride from the professors office to the library...oh wait...the faculty offices and the library are in the same building...nevermind.
8.2.2005 3:45pm
carpundit (www):
I question whether TV shows want guests who are "experiened [and] objective." My sense is that they prefer guests who are loud and partisan, regardless of their actual qualifications.

Maybe it varies by network, or show, but I see a lot of experts on TV who don't seem to have anything but time on their hands.
8.2.2005 4:12pm
Ted (www):
I've been on "Guilt or Innocence." While it's a good show, well above average for tv news, it technically isn't ABC; it's "ABC News Now," which is their subscription-only webcast, which I thus suspect gets fewer viewers than this post to volokh.com got.
8.2.2005 4:38pm
NR:
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY?

I was recently invited to comment on a post by Eugene Volokh regarding his shabby treatment by a major television network. Sounds good; I like commenting on blogs. As always, these gigs don't pay anything — perfectly fine by me.

To my surprise, though, while nearly every other blog I've dealt with sent over a basket of fruit in consideration of my modest contributions (based on my clear and fresh recollection, Balkinization, Instapundit, and Becker-Posner, but I'm sure that's been true of everyone else except perhaps Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog), the Volokh people told me they didn't do this any more. What's more, the nearest fresh produce stand is over 15 miles from my workplace, which given afternoon traffic would likely be 45 minutes there and back.

If they had only sent a fruit basket, that would be one and a half hours that I could spend snacking while I work. (Trust me, no-one wants a fruit basket for prestige, since there's no prestige to it; it's just a way of staving off the afternoon munchies.) If I had to provide my own fruit while commenting on blogs, it would cost me considerable time and money. And this so I can provide them a free service. I thus very nearly declined.

Seems like a pretty short-sighted move on the Conspiracy's part. They'll still get guests who have rarely commented on the blogs of famous law professors, and see this as a great deal of fun. (I still see doing these comments as some fun, but not nearly as much as when I started.) They'll still get commentors who have their own blogs they want to advance, or who are deeply ideologically invested in a position. But I suspect they'll lose quite a few people who are experienced, objective, and busy (like me). Aren't those the very sorts of people they'd most want?

And, yes, I do see something amusing in a blog commentor complaining about a project that requires spending time with no payment . . . . Suffice it to say that blogging is fun, and driving to go buy fruit isn't.
8.2.2005 4:55pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
VERY funny.
8.2.2005 5:40pm
NR:
UPDATE: OK, score one for EV, at least from my perspective: He described my comment above as "VERY funny." That might not be as satisfying as a nice big basket of fresh fruit -- though given that it's getting close to dinner time, a fruit basket seems somewhat less desirable than it did an hour ago. But it sure is a nice consolation prize for an experienced, objective, and busy blog commentor like me.
8.2.2005 6:10pm
SteveMG (mail):
"They're willing to have me on by phone, presumably with my picture on-screen."

Not a collect call one hopes?

Double check that phone bill next month just in case.

SMG
8.2.2005 6:41pm
Alexandra von Maltzan (mail) (www):
Why does everyone have to write derogatory comments about wanting to have a car pick you up and drop you at ABC? The network is certainly not short of cash, although the comment about Disney makes the most sense, and if they wish to have an experienced voice for free, the least they can do is allow them to utilize their time productively, and not expect them to sit idly and waste time in traffic. In principle they definitely send cars, it's just a matter of choice that they didn't, so why should anyone be slammed for making their own choice in return. If you don't exist in the budget, then they shouldn't even be picking up the phone. From a viewers point of view nothing can beat an interview in person, so the short-sighted ball is definitely in their court. And as for Mr. Experienced, Objective and Busy being anonymous above, if you don't have the time to post a comment why bother writing 5+ paragraphs without a valid point. Eugene I am totally with you on this one.
8.2.2005 9:32pm
Lee Kane (mail):
Wait, did Alexandra's comment just make this a sarcasm free zone?

Now, this has nothing to do with the previous sentence, but did you read the recent Times piece on the science of sarcasm--the ability to detect it is apparently based upon the sophisticated action of a number of different brain centers acting in concert and when people suffer various brain wasting disorders, sarcasm is one of the first things to go. I am not being sarcastic, by the way.

Incidentally, isn't sarcasm itself, as well as the ability to deliver it, highly desired by ABC? Such that those most skilled at it can expect limos, while those who play it straight can expect to be interviewed by phone?
8.2.2005 10:34pm
Alexandra von Maltzan (mail) (www):
Sarcasm in itself is not the issue, it is the monotony of repetition, which if exercised too often as it has been here by laboring the all too familiar digs, is the more damaging to the sophisticated action of a number of different brain centers acting in concert, and will be the more likely culprit of various brain wasting disorders. By the way, sarcasm is not the first to go, it's the ability to string sentences together that make a valid point lucid. Incidentally, delivering petty criticism wrapped in the pretense of sarcasm, is an insult to the ancient Greek culture from which the word emanates.
8.3.2005 3:31am