Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

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Courage

There is a difference between an interview and a report. Basically, the report is shorter and much more to the point. But it has all of the same elements; a host, an expert, a subject, a conversation, a takeaway. A report is to an interview as a teaspoon of soup is to the pot.

Just listened to David Folkenflik, the media correspondent for NPR report about the just announced departure of NPR’s CEO, Gary Knell. What I admired about his report was how he was not afraid to talk about prickly stuff. See, when you’re inside an organization and you report on the potential problems in the secret sauce, co-workers can get prickly, even though reporting is what the whole shebang is about. Folkenflik talked honestly, though with ever so slight hesitancy about the turnover of CEO’s; 7 in 7 years, the looming budget shortfall; more than $6 million dollars, the compromise over “Here and Now”; an effort to keep peace among the affiliates and the problem current and potential advertisers might have; does the revolving door at the top make them hesitant to support the network? I heard him stutter step twice and that tells me he didn’t want to pull back the covers on the place he probably loves, but it was his job.

This is not pretty stuff. Public and community radio is under siege from all directions. And NPR got its newest CEO two years ago after disastrous episodes surrounding the firing of Juan Williams, secret videotapes of questionable behavior of NPR fundraisers, and finally, in light of it all, the resignation of the previous CEO. But Folkenflik plowed through it all because he is, I think, like Internal Affairs in a police department. He reports on the reporting. That means he goes deeper and probably feels the respect and simultaneously, the wariness of every journalist in the building.

Folkenflik, like Simon, Totenberg, Sarhaddi-Nelson, and the scores of top notch reporters who have armed me every day against this nutty world; he and they deserve good leadership and I have no doubt the NPR board will provide it. Because courageousness like his, even in his own house, is what credibility is all about.

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Written by Interviewer

August 20, 2013 at 07:39

Posted in Scratchpad

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