Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Archive for January 2015

The Money is the Message?

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Mark Rubio

One of the reasons why people have a standing distaste for politicians is because of how they sometimes don’t clearly answer questions.  Case in point, Mark Rubio has written a book in which he talks about what America needs to do to help Americans recapture the American Dream.  The law says he, as a sitting Senator, can’t also run for the presidency.  So, he has to make a choice as to when he’ll choose which office he’ll officially seek.

Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell of CBS This Morning both asked Mr. Rubio when he’ll announce.  And he circled back to his book and how he spells his choice out there.  The anchors followed up with a simple question, namely, (paraphrasing) can’t you just say?  Again, he goes back to the book.  This is one of those times for reporters and the audience when you wonder what is more important to a politician; communicating a message important to their constituency or making money for themselves?  To be fair, Hilary Clinton has done this a number of times around her own book in interviews.

The established politician strategy when asked a question that is too direct is to continue talking in hopes that the listener or viewer will forget the question that was asked and instead, focus on their next golden utterance.  Time can limit how much time reporters, commentators, correspondents and anchors have to follow up on such dreck, but they need to as often as they can so the public knows the single-minded message isn’t floating free.

Written by Interviewer

January 13, 2015 at 00:00

Media Questions About Charlie Hebdo Not Naval Gazing This Time

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Charlie Hebdo

Media is a human institution, just like every other institution on this planet.  It is not perfect.  The media has been accused of everything from under focusing on the right thing to over focusing on the inane thing.  But sometimes, it gets the hard look at itself right.

NPR’s Here and Now had a discussion with Eric Wimple, Media Columnist for the Washington Post on whether there is a level of hypocrisy amongst the media regarding the reprinting of debatable political cartoons by the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.  Two and possibly three terrorists involved in the killings of Charlie Hebdo staff and French police were killed in and outside of Paris by French police.  The hashtag “#Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) has popped up as a sign of solidarity with the right to free speech as expressed in their political cartoons.

But there has been a counter hash tag, “#Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo” (I am not Charlie Hebdo) as a way of saying although the killings were unacceptable, some of the cartoons the magazine published were purposely incendiary and equally unacceptable to some.

This has landed some media smack in the middle of the question of how much support they will give Charlie Hebdo.  It should be noted that the publication itself has already said they will meet their next printing deadline on time and publish as usual.  But the New York Times and Slate are revealed to be on opposite sides of that intention of support.

Here and Now reported that the New York Times will not re-publish any of Charlie Hebdo’s more controversial cartoons, esp. those that depict the prophet Mohammed.  Slate, by contrast, will.  And the question for journalists is, where is the line separating the brotherhood of the pen from what their audience (including advertisers) will bear?

Charlie Hebdo does not need other publications to carry their water.  They have hoisted their own load onto their own shoulders, terrorists be damned.  The ink still pulses within them and that makes anyone who truly is a “journalist” proud.  But journalists don’t make the business decisions where stockholders and cultures with fickle morals compasses are concerned.

But at least this time, the conversations within the Fourth and Fifth Estates are actually rocking the houses.

Remarkable?

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Halo

Listening to a promo for an interview between Dave Miller on OPB’s “Think OutLoud” and incoming and outgoing Portland police chiefs, I was struck by something outgoing Chief Mike Reese said.  Mr. Miller asked him if he has seen a change in the use of force by Portland police during his more than four year tenure.  Paraphrasing Mr. Reese, he said he has seen a remarkable drop in force related incidents by the police against Portland’s citizens.

His use of the word, “remarkable” was what got my attention.  The definition of remarkable is “worthy of being or likely to be noticed, especially as being uncommon  or extraordinary”.  I think the first part of the definition applies.  The drop in the use of force by Portland police, if it has in fact occurred, is certainly worth noticing.  But the second part of the definition was bothersome.

“Uncommon” means “not ordinarily encountered” with a second definition being “remarkable and exceptional”.  Meanwhile “extraordinary” means “going beyond what is usual, regular or customary”.  Its second definition uses “remarkable” as a synonym.

I think you can see the problem here.

If Portland’s outgoing police chief considers “remarkable” the drop in the use of force by the Portland police, it makes me wonder what he and the Portland police consider “routine” treatment of those same citizens.  In other words, how rare should this be?  I mean, shouldn’t it be “remarkable” when an incident occurs rather than when one doesn’t occur?  To call a drop in the occurrence of something toxic “remarkable” implies that the drop was never expected and is, in fact, surprising.  And that speaks volumes to the problems currently orbiting police culture across the country.  This is one of those situations where I would’ve liked to see the interviewer ask what “remarkable” meant in that context.

And to that sentiment, I want to use an antonym.

Pitiful.