Pause for thought

SHORTLY after the Reykjavik summit, the NBC ``Today'' show interviewed White House chief of staff Donald Regan and the NATO secretary-general, Lord Carrington. The interviews aired back to back. Each offered thought-provoking insights on the Reagan-Gorbachev meeting. But in each case, the viewer was allowed no time for reflection - not even a few seconds - before his or her senses were jarred with a particularly strident commercial. This happens far too often. It is especially distracting when a commercial follows an important or emotional presentation, be it a movie or a documentary on an issue such as missing children.

The thoughtful viewer has a need to settle back and reflect on what he has seen. But it simply isn't possible. On comes the commercial in a split second, stepping right on the heels of the presentation, and shattering the mood that the program has sustained.

Another distracting and highly unsatisfactory practice of network news people is their propensity to cut off important interviewees in mid-sentence. Again, this discourtesy has taken place several times on my favorite morning program, the ``Today'' show. I must assume it occurs as often on the other networks. George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, or any one of a lineup of important men and women whose opinions are sought may be in the middle of making a cogent point when Bryant Gumbel or Jane Pauley cuts in with ``Sorry we've run out of time. Thank you, Mr. Shultz.'' Meanwhile, Mr. Shultz is left hanging, with a crucial statement unfinished.

None of us is so naive as to believe that there isn't a price to pay for all this marvelous free television entertainment. That price is to watch the commercials.

But it would seem reasonable that the networks could arrange their split-second parceling of valuable time so that a five-second pause could be inserted before commercials. Let the director make it up later, even deducting from subsequent editorial material. In the long run, it would be much more satisfactory for both the networks and the viewing public.

Jerry Cowle is a free-lance writer in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

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