Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Controlling the Agenda

leave a comment »

This is a quickie.

For years, I’ve written in this blog about journalistic tricks, techniques and tendencies. I’ve talked about the dark art and dark humor of writers and reporters as they try to balance objectivity with their own humanity. And I’ve looked at how important it is to not become part of the story you are covering.

But with the Club Q shootings in Colorado this weekend, I am sadly reminded of something we as coverers of the news can’t do, which is try to control the agenda. We cannot and should not, as reporters, journalists and writers bent on telling an unbiased story, work to influence people to form an opinion about something, one way of another.

However … that does not mean that we simply repeat the prevailing, dominant agenda, whatever that is. If the zeitgeist is “Mass shootings are prevalent, growing and seemingly, unstoppable,” we search for balance and evidence that communities are fighting back against haters. If the zeitgeist is that “Shooters are inhuman monsters,” we look for extenuating circumstances that pushed shooters down the path to be shooters. If the zeitgeist is to blame victims, we look to hold law enforcement and public policy responsible for holes or hypocrisies in how civil or administrative law is applied.

In other words, if there is a sunny optimism to the extreme, we inject some realism. If there is crushing despair to the extreme, we show how people are determined to fight their way uphill to make it work despite the odds. And in the case of Club Q, if the community of shooters past and shooters to be feel like they’re making headway toward remaking the world in their bloody image, we show communities lighting candles, rallying marches, and doubling down on wrestling murderers to the ground before they can do more damage.

Through hundreds of political interviews over years, I’ve heard a crude sentiment inferred by some that goes something like this; “If you don’t agree, it means you don’t understand. And if I can’t make you understand, it means you’re stupid and therefore, less than me.” Nowhere in there is there any balance. If that is a creeping attitude that is used by those folks to control the agenda; although there is much writers, reporters and journalists can’t do, there is one thing we can certainly do.

And that is, we must highlight the full spectrum of thought, opinions, words and actions, not just the loudest, meanest and dumbest part of it.

Written by Interviewer

November 22, 2022 at 01:48

Posted in Scratchpad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: