Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Congress

Antonin Scalia and Public Radio

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Antonin Scalia 2

It’s worth noting that back in the early 70s, when President Nixon was looking for ways to curtail federal funds to public broadcasting, he received advice from his then council for public broadcasting, future Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  According to Andrew Giarolo, a doctoral candidate at Seton Hall in 2013 and author of, “Resolving the Debate on Public Funding for National Public Radio”, Mr. Scalia “crafted a policy by which local stations would drive programming choices.”

This was important at the time because there was a division within Congress between those who thought NPR should be a national network vs. those who thought federal funding should focus on stations developing a local-only programming policy.  Both camps knew that the size of the voice affected the spread of the message.  And since public radio had by then gained the reputation of being an “Eastern liberal institution”, conservatives in the White House, Congress and the courts wanted to make sure federal money wasn’t supporting it too strongly.

Programming is key because programming is expensive and needs to be paid for.  Local stations didn’t have the budgets to create the kind of investigative reports that infuriated the Nixon adminstration, but networks and dedicated production facilities did.  So attacking CPB funds was a key strategy by the right.

Although Scalia helped prepare legislation for submission to Congress that contained ideas for local stations to drive programming rather than NPR, it went nowhere.  But, years later, NPR would itself create a system of diversified funding sources that included local stations, that would protect funding for programming and save it from budget attacks in the future.

 

Written by Interviewer

February 17, 2016 at 01:16

Edit This

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Edit

An unflattering video. Suspicious editing. People’s character under attack.

This isn’t about the current controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood. ICYMI, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards defended herself before a congressional committee yesterday. The issue was a secretly recorded video that seemed to show planned parenthood employees talking about the organization making money from the sale of aborted fetal tissue. The video has prompted congressional Republicans to try to eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

No, this is about former Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sharrod. Ms. Sharrod, a black woman, was attacked for allegedly making racist comments during a public meeting in 2010. The meeting was videotaped and edited by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart and widely distributed to politicians and news outlets.

The NAACP subsequently attacked Ms. Sharrod and she was pressured to resign from her federal appointment as Georgia State Director of USDA Rural Development. It was later discovered that Ms. Sharrod had not made racist comments and had been unjustly portrayed by Mr. Breitbart as well as unjustly vilified by the NAACP and Obama administration. In a turn around, then Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack offered Ms. Sharrod a high level appointment which she turned down before quietly retiring from Federal service.

These stories share not just questionably edited video but that despite the fact that both videos were known to be heavily doctored by individuals with a strong ideological bent, policy makers considered them legitimate and thus, a basis for attack.

That people will fight to protect their own view of the world is a given. However, no math on Earth argues that 1+1=3. Likewise, an audio or video track is a tangible, electronic footpath of things actually said or actually seen. And when pieces are removed, what’s left might be called “interpretation” by some but a lie by others. That is an issue law enforcement is beginning to face as the public demands to see unedited footage of violent interactions between citizens and the police. It is also why many reporters are now posting unedited audio or video along with their finished interviews.

It is often said, “Truth is the first casualty of war”. In the war of words between battling ideologies, one has to marvel at the extent some will go to reshape reality as much as the extent to which others will go to believe it.

Because the fact is, in the world of politics, facts only matter until they don’t.

Talking Points

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CBS

I just listened to and watched a CBS This Morning segment that included Gayle King, Nora O’Donnell and Anthony Mason. All three were interviewing House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. They began by talking about how the Capitol Police, in light of the shooting and killing of a woman who attempted to break through Capitol barricades, are working without pay.

That quickly became a conversation about the government, and all three anchors were clearly channeling the Twitter hashtag #shutdown. They each peppered Ms. Pelosi with questions that had a distinctive grassroots flavor. Gayle, said the back and forth in Washington sounded like so much “white noise” to most people; a characterization that the minority leader pushed strongly back against, essentially saying that the issue is much deeper than the ideological fight that it appears to be.

Nora asked about the ability of both sides to negotiate, which cued Ms. Pelosi to lock into the Democratic talking points, repeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s catchphrase, “They [Republicans] won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer”.

At this point in the deadlock, according to Pelosi, the Senate majority has voted four times in favor of the budget measures in the funding bill sent forward by majority House Republicans. But those measures are tied to the defunding of the Affordable Care Act, and apparently, the Democratic majority in the Senate considers that blackmail. Thus, they won’t approve that portion of the bill.

This isn’t a blog about politics, but about interviewing, and Gayle mentioned that Pelosi must know a lot about compromise since she has five children. Nora O’Donnell roughly shifted Pelosi to a quick overview of why she was in New York, which was to attend a conference supporting child care and equal pay for working women. I couldn’t tell if O’Donnell was trying to help the producer get out on time or if she was tired of hearing the minority leader spin. Either way, the segment ended on a note of congratulations for Ms. Pelosi who was celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary.

Interviews are supposed to have a point. As near as I could tell, the point from Ms. Pelosi’s view was to put forth the Democratic position and the point of the three anchors was to grill her as much as within morning TV decorum as possible. CBS has always struck me as the more liberal of the three traditional broadcast networks. To hear all three, Gayle, Nora and Anthony on the congresswoman “Murder Board” style warmed my heart because despite talking to one of the top Democrats in Congress, they were asking questions many Americans are asking.

Good job.

Written by Interviewer

October 5, 2013 at 01:00