Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

New Year’s Eve Surprise: Appearing on the Wall Street Journal

This morning, I got a call from Andy Jordan, a technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Could I talk about the cultural significance of the Zune problem for an online video piece?

Of course, I had no idea what he was talking about. Zune problem? Who gives a damn about the Zune?

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if you want to be a talking head, the first thing you have to do is answer the phone. The second thing you have to do is always, always say, “Sure! I can talk about that!”

I guess that’s two things. Still.

So, we talked for a minute– journalists always want to hear what you’re going to say before they ask you on-camera to say it, particularly for these kinds of background pieces– and I passed muster. I don’t know if I sounded good, if I just said what he needed someone to say, or I was the only person he could find on New Year’s Eve. It pays to not ask too many questions. Andy asked if I could go up to the San Francisco Wall Street Journal studio and do a video. He e-mailed me the questions he wanted to ask, and the address of the studio. I had just enough time to change clothes, hit Google News on the iPhone, get a sense of what was going on with the Zune, and formulate some answers to his questions as my wife drove us up 280.

Once we got up to the studio, the engineer gave us a quick tour, the kids retreated to one side to watch, and I got settled and miked. I read over the questions a couple more times, switched my iPhone to airplane mode, turned over the answers in my mind, then we started recording. We didn’t have a connection to New York, so I had to pretend I was the interviewer and read the questions, then pretend I was listening to them, then answer them. Very DIY.

At the Wall Street Journal interview
letting them adjust the camera height, via flickr

For the kids, the most interesting thing was that they could project images on the green screen behind me. What I was saying wasn’t that interesting. It was just a bunch of what my daughter dismissively calls “grown-up talky-talky.”

At the Wall Street Journal interview
practicing looking thoughtful, via flickr

The interview was generally all right. I’m definitely getting better at them. But I need to learn to say what I’m trying to say in about half as much time. Sound bites are harder than they look, especially when you’re trying to craft the verbal equivalent of tuna sashimi rather than cheez puffs.

Here’s the finished segment:

Thanks folks, I’ll be playing the Green Room all week. I’m also available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.


  1. Happy New Year! And very very cool. You are truly amazing. :O)

  2. Ophelia, what in heaven’s name are you doing online on New Year’s Eve? Go
    out and party! Go back to the shooting range! Do something!

  3. so begins our project on the black-boxing of our lives! cool video, cool back story.

  4. whoops, signed in as the wife. this is mathias!!

  5. Nicely done, sir!

    As you might imagine, this was the subject of much email and cocktail conversations last night for those of us not in the Zune group. And I can only imagine how much fun those poor souls had yesterday…


  6. That’s so funny, I worked in that office when I first moved to SF.

  7. What a small world! It seemed like a nice place.

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