HCRI Founder Dr. Ronald Webster Talks About Broadcaster John Stossel’s Stuttering Therapy

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., Founder and President of the Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI)responds to a question about former stuttering therapy client and broadcast journalist John Stossel. Mr. Stossel participated in HCRI’s advanced stuttering therapy program early in his career.

With HCRI’s scientifically based treatment, Mr. Stossel acquired the skills to speak fluently in all aspects of his life, which enabled him to significantly advance his career in national television. After an impressive tenure on ABC’s 20/20, Mr. Stossel now has his own program on Fox Network appropriated called “Stossel.”

Several people have asked about John Stossel’s stuttering when he was a young reporter. How did he manage to work as a TV reporter when he also stuttered?

The answer is quite straightforward. He did not appear live on air. His presentations were all recorded. For example, with interviews John would ask a question and the person who was being interviewed would reply. However, when John stuttered on questions, the producers would later shoot additional attempts of his asking the questions until they captured fluent examples. When aired, the report showed fluent Stossel questions and the interviewee’s responses—all through the magic of careful editing.

John was an excellent reporter with good instincts for stories and solid insights into how a story should be reported. The fact that his editors made accommodations for his stuttered speech underscores the high quality of his reporting.

As he began to appear live on air his anxieties about his stuttering increased. His on air stuttering occasionally tripped him up. He reported one instance of being suddenly asked to announce a brief midday newscast. He stuttered during one of his sentences and struggled to get a word out for so long that time ran out and he was taken off the air during the middle of a sentence.

It was only later, after completing our stuttering treatment program that John began to appear regularly on live TV. He has stated that our program was the only intervention that worked for him.

Mr. Stossel is one of more than 6,000 clients who have participated in HCRI’s stuttering therapy since the institute was founded by Dr. Webster in 1972. Over the years, HCRI has grown into a world-leading center for the investigation and treatment of stuttering. Research shows that 93 percent of clients achieve normal fluency after their 12-day intensive stuttering therapy program. Follow-up studies reveal 70 to 75% retain fluency for the long term.

The 501 (c) (3) nonprofit institute is unique from other stuttering organizations in that work focuses on developing scientifically based treatment methods, as well as administering stuttering therapy. For more information about the Roanoke, Viriginia institute, visit www.stuttering.org or call 540-265-5650.