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Guest Essay: The Four-Minute Expert by Dr. David Schwam-Baird

UNF Political Science Professor Dr. David Schwam-Baird is a regular go to source for local media in the Jacksonville area on all things political. He has given numerous television interviews on topics ranging from domestic political affairs to complex matters of diplomacy in the Middle East. He is also a former professor of mine, so when I first began to do my own local media interviews on similarly complex topics I naturally turned to David for advice.

After all, the prospect of appearing on television to coherently and thoughtfully discuss an enormously complex topic like Middle East violence in a short three to four minute interview allowing only 20 to 30 second responses to the interviewer’s questions is a much more daunting task than one might think. Particularly for someone who has never done it before. Indeed, I recall once being asked, at the end of such an interview dealing with the rise of ISIS, how do we “bring peace to the Middle East.”

I had about 15 seconds to respond.

There was no time for a nuanced discussion of the long term consequences of the Sunni-Shia divide, western imperialism, modern misunderstandings of historic relations between East and West in the Islamic world (e.g. the crusades),  the issues that emerged from the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, or a whole host of other long term issues, much less the short term issues related more narrowly to the rise of ISIS in the summer of 2014.


Just 15 seconds.

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