Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Iraq

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

Say What?

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ISIS Syria 2

I just heard an interview where the interviewer was talking with someone who left Syria just before the group ISIS (or Da’ish) began their campaign of retributive kidnappings and murders.  The interviewer asked why they stopped their humanitarian efforts of distributing blankets.  It was a confusing question since the interview centered around the worsening conditions for aid workers in recent years as well as the just confirmed death of aide worker Kayle Jean Mueller of Prescott, Arizona.  To a listener, it would make perfect sense why the worker stopped providing that aid and the question would’ve probably seemed unnecessary.

But in the follow up question, the interviewer asked the former aid worker if they were naïve for going to Syria in the first place.  Again, it was a strange question since, as the worker pointed out much earlier in the interview, conditions were very different at the beginning of the conflict and distributing the aid was both easier and more accepted by local authorities.

Perhaps, as is the practice of many interviewers, this is an example of covering all of the bases by playing “devils advocate”.  But to me, it’s less that than of the interviewer not listening to the answers or thinking through the history of a subject when preparing for the conversation.  These kind of questions are maddening because poor preparation or inattention by the interviewer can confuse a good topic and a cogent interviewee and leave the listener with no clear takeaway.

I’ve talked about this before; questions that dilute or miss the point.  It happens.  I just wish it happened a little less often.

Written by Interviewer

February 11, 2015 at 01:47