Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘attack

Nebulous Corporate Statements

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Movie Theater

A Tennessee man was killed yesterday by police in the town of Antioch after he attacked theater goers in a multiplex.  Twenty nine year old Vincente Montano was shot after he was engaged by a SWAT team as he tried to leave the Hickory Hollow cinema.  Witnesses said Montano carried a hatchet, a pellet gun and pepper spray into the theater.  CBS News reports three people suffered minor injuries.

This incident speaks to the prevalence of these kind of attacks and the need to be able to better identify potential perpertrators who suffer from mental illness.  To wit, at the end of the story, reporter David Begnaud read a statement from the National Association of Theater Owners  which in part said, “People have a right to go about their lives in peace and safety. The safety of our guests and employees is, and always will be our industry’s highest priority.”

Usually, when an entity makes a statement regarding performance related policy, they are doing so because of a recognition of a need to improve that performance or to defend an existing policy.  Regarding improving policy as it relates to customer safety, they may outline policy changes that include greater vigilance, increased presence of law enforcement, great adherence to existing law or closer security screenings for the safety of those customers.  Regarding defending policy, they may outline what they are currently doing and why that is sufficient.

This statement above seems to do neither and sounds, by contrast, familiar to any reporter used to receiving press releases from corporations that have style but no substance.  Considering that there have been several mass shootings in theaters over the past few years, it will be interesting to see if the National Association of Theater Owners go into any deeper explanation of their statement or announce any measures to provide more concrete protection for theater goers and employees.

Although the news cycle may forget this incident until the next one, the public will not.  And words with no action are no source of comfort for a public seeing more of these attacks. Perhaps it is not the responsibility of news organizations to parce corporate statements in the midst of crisis but a follow up story on changes to which such a statement alludes certainly might be appropriate.

Written by Interviewer

August 7, 2015 at 01:20

The Outrageous Sh*t People Say

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Interviewers can’t afford to judge the people they’re interviewing for two main reason.  First, if they judge, the interviewee may stop talking.  Usually, the more a person talks, the more comfortable they get.  And if they feel they are being allowed the freedom to get comfortable, they will, over time, be more and more honest with what they are saying, even if those view are repugnant to many listeners.

The fact that those opinions may be repugnant to some is not the point, however.  The point is allowing them to be heard and then, letting the public whether represented by the legal system, the activist community or the woman on the street, to respond.  They may respond with new legislation, an arrest or the kind of public pressure Americans are so good at applying.

It is not the job of the interviewer to judge.  It is the job of the interviewer to honestly provide a direct highway from the interviewee’s mouth to the listener’s ears and let the chips fall where they may with the acknowledgement that sometimes, there is no reaction.  Maybe people are not listening because they’re doing something else.  Or maybe they are listening but they don’t see the subject as rising to a level where it affects them directly enough to respond.  But that too is not the interviewer’s job to worry about.

The other reason why an interviewer can’t judge is because judgement tends to lead to confrontation.  An interviewee with a controversial view has been honed with a prize fighter’s prowess to hit back whenever they feel attacked.  And a judging interviewer may question those views in such a way that the interviewee feels attacked.  This can escalate until you have both trying to outtalk each other.  It is bad for the interviewer because it lessens his credibility but great for the interviewee because he has been able to draw a heretofore impartial interviewer down to the level of shouting.  You’ve heard the expression, “Never wrestle with a pig.  You get covered in mud and the pig likes it”.  That is a saying that should be at the front of every interviewer’s mind whenever they find themselves in conversation with someone with controversial views.

Again, the best and only thing a good interviewer can and should do is make it comfortable for their interviewees to talk and then, let them.

Written by Interviewer

August 12, 2014 at 00:49