Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘America

The Importance of the “Witness”

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Obama No

This is a quickie.

This photograph is currently circulating on Linkedin.  The poster is apparently suggesting that President Obama never hugged active duty troops, which in some circles is code for saying that President Obama has disdain for the troops, the American missions in Afghanistan/Iraq, American exceptionalism and the Constitution.  Many current and past political pundits, politicians and wannabees have said as much.

The interesting thing about this suggestion is it is flatly uninformed and untrue.  Photographer Erika Barker, who works for a communications firm in NY and has worked for Conde’ Nast, the NFL, DIRECTV among others, apparently happened to see the poster’s post and said, “I sure do. I was there”, and posted a photo of President Obama hugging troops.  In fact, Janet Goodman-Clarke, another marketing and photography professional in NY also posted a photo of the president hugging a soldier with prosthetic legs.  Who knows how many more photos invalidating the poster’s assertion are in that response thread.

Obama YesObama Yes2

An easy comeback might be, “Well, President Bush was sincerely hugging the troops while President Obama was doing it for the camera.”  And that is why easy responses are easy – because they don’t require much due diligence, which is why many such uninformed opinions flow so freely on social media.

It is the job of the Commander-in-Chief to command.  I cannot think of a president who has not cried for wounded or fallen troops.  It is a luxury for such posters to editorialize what is going on in the pictures.  The truth is the emotions exchanged between the leader and those they are leading are deep and personal and beyond shallow, petty and self interested interpretation.

But another true fact about such strong feelings by the people who have them is that the inaccuracy isn’t so much about the truth, but about how the people making the accusations don’t feel heard.  Much more must be done to try to find a way to heal what seems to be a genuine rift amongst our countrymen and women.  Feeling separated from the discussion can make people angry.  And when people are angry, they can see things that aren’t there and not see things that are there.

Which is exactly why the witness is so important.

Written by Interviewer

February 3, 2016 at 10:01

Ad Perpetuam Memoriam

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Microphone and Ribbon

Two journalists from WDBJ TV in Roanoke, Virginia, reporter Allison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, were killed by a former station employee while they conducted a live TV interview.  According to NPR’s Sandy Housman, the image of Vester Lee Flanigan, who worked as a reporter under the name of Bryce Williams, was captured by videographer Adam Ward’s camera.  Flanigan apparently also videotaped himself carrying out the shooting and later, posted it on social media.  The BBC reported that as someone who understood the power of TV and video, Mr. Flanigan stalked and ambushed both journalists.  Virginia police reported Flanagan suffered a self-inflicted, life threatening gunshot wound and has been transported to a local hospital.  He has since died from those wounds.

I cried when I heard of the shootings.  I’ve worked in a TV newsroom.  I’ve worked the early morning shift with people who shuffle in at two and three in the morning and scrounge for stories to have ready by a 6 or 7 a.m. newscast.  I’ve joked with cameramen as they grabbed their gear and warmed up a truck.  I’ve watched reporters scoop up notebooks and tape recorders as they hurry out the door into the dark to get ready for some live shot who-knows-where.

An American journalist hasn’t been murdered in America since 2007.  According to Wikipedia, Chauncy Bailey of the Oakland Post was the most recent reporter killed by the target of an investigative report he was working on.  The Committee to Protect Journalists says 1141 journalists have been killed around the world since 1992.  But many American journalists have been killed on American soil.  Wikipedia lists 48 journalists killed in the United States since 1837.

I have never been in a reporting situation where I thought my life was in danger.  But, this simple and routine interview these two professionals went to cover; one of a thousand they’ve done before, almost certainly seemed ordinary and harmless to them as well.

Allison Parker – WDBJ-TV Reporter
Adam Ward – WDBJ-TV Cameraman

Written by Interviewer

August 26, 2015 at 23:13