Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

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Stone Wall

The frustration reporters can feel when they (1) get useless information, (2) get no information or (3) get late information needs to be put in context.  Emotionally, it can be disheartening when a source knows you need information, you have been clear about when you need that information and you still you don’t get it even when they may have agreed to give it to you. These people know they are in a tactical power position, but it is an opportunity for the reporter to think strategically.

The journalist knows that they are not the only person who is or has ever been irritated, stymied or stonewalled regarding the issue, whatever it is.  But they are not now, have never been and will never go through this alone.  They are part of a much larger tradition of truthtelling that knows overcoming obstacles is part of the fun.

Secondly, reporters and journalists will continue to seek, to pry, to ask, to investigate within the confines of the law; all for the purpose of informing the larger society of those people who arrogantly step outside it.  Because fortunately, every aspect of society is but a subset of society much like a bacteria is only one in a body full of co-existing organisms.  When one goes rogue, in other words, when it begins to attack the body like an auto-immune disease, the body responds to protect itself.  Biology majors can appreciate the analogy of journalists acting as the complement system of the body politic. In the human body, the complement system is comprised of proteins that are the first to rush to any hostile thing that invades the body.  They then send out calls that tells the body it is under attack.

Lastly, the wonderful thing about that reporter frustration is that it yields results.  They might not be the results a reporter is hoping for.  But like a forensic scientist who finds a fingernail behind a couch, although it wasn’t a smoking gun, it was just as good.  Many times, people who think they are saying nothing, giving nothing, yielding nothing are throwing fingernail clippings all over the place.  They say “No Comment”.  They have their assistants run interference in ways that range from forcing reporters to leave endless voicemail messages to downright rudeness and intimidation.  They email blast statements many levels removed from the first person or any measure of professional responsibility.

It’s all good, because every one of those non responses the public eventually sees in stereophonic high definition.  Again, it’s all good.

To authorities that hide, conceal, obscure or deny when the law provides no clear justification for doing so, know that journalists will, to coin Winston Churchill, “never, never, never, never, never give up”.  Never.  Because reporters know you aren’t really angry at them.  They know you’re really afraid of what the people will do when they decide they’ve heard and seen and had enough of you.

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Written by Interviewer

August 15, 2014 at 06:23

Posted in Scratchpad

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