Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘murder

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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

Media Questions About Charlie Hebdo Not Naval Gazing This Time

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Charlie Hebdo

Media is a human institution, just like every other institution on this planet.  It is not perfect.  The media has been accused of everything from under focusing on the right thing to over focusing on the inane thing.  But sometimes, it gets the hard look at itself right.

NPR’s Here and Now had a discussion with Eric Wimple, Media Columnist for the Washington Post on whether there is a level of hypocrisy amongst the media regarding the reprinting of debatable political cartoons by the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.  Two and possibly three terrorists involved in the killings of Charlie Hebdo staff and French police were killed in and outside of Paris by French police.  The hashtag “#Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) has popped up as a sign of solidarity with the right to free speech as expressed in their political cartoons.

But there has been a counter hash tag, “#Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo” (I am not Charlie Hebdo) as a way of saying although the killings were unacceptable, some of the cartoons the magazine published were purposely incendiary and equally unacceptable to some.

This has landed some media smack in the middle of the question of how much support they will give Charlie Hebdo.  It should be noted that the publication itself has already said they will meet their next printing deadline on time and publish as usual.  But the New York Times and Slate are revealed to be on opposite sides of that intention of support.

Here and Now reported that the New York Times will not re-publish any of Charlie Hebdo’s more controversial cartoons, esp. those that depict the prophet Mohammed.  Slate, by contrast, will.  And the question for journalists is, where is the line separating the brotherhood of the pen from what their audience (including advertisers) will bear?

Charlie Hebdo does not need other publications to carry their water.  They have hoisted their own load onto their own shoulders, terrorists be damned.  The ink still pulses within them and that makes anyone who truly is a “journalist” proud.  But journalists don’t make the business decisions where stockholders and cultures with fickle morals compasses are concerned.

But at least this time, the conversations within the Fourth and Fifth Estates are actually rocking the houses.

Words: Use versus Meaning

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George Carlin

This isn’t about interviewing, but it is about language.

I love George Carlin, and I speak of him in the present tense because what he contributed to our culture is timeless.  What he did was get people thinking about the use of language and the meanings behind the words, the syntax, the grammar, the intonations, the pacing, the inflection.  In the taxonomy of human and interaction, he was a jester.  And on my list of societal influencers, he was the celebrity.  A celebrity jester.  In fact, he was a jester’s jester.

For those of you that don’t know, I love the concept of the jester, because the jester is the only one with the stones to speak truth to power.  The revolutionary wears the opposite mask; the dramatic/tragic one.  And most often, the revolutionary gets killed or crushed.  But the jester, (perfect set up for American Pie, but I’ll let it go …), the jester speaks truth to power through humor, and he/she manages to be so funny, like pee your pants funny, while so piercing, like uranium artillery shell piercing, that power can’t decide whether to send them to the gallows or buy them a drink.

I was reading an article where someone used the word “neutralized” to describe how the police would deal with shooters in public shootings and I started thinking about it.  Such a sanitary word for blowing somebody’s brains out.  Reminds me of that Star Trek episode where these two societies have been fighting a war w/computers for centuries.  Instead of a messy battlefield, random people are selected to report to death chambers like people would go to a subway platform and wait for a train.  This way, the war stays neat and clean and sanitized and so, there isn’t much motivation to end it.  But Kirk destroys the computers and now, both sides are terrified that the other side might launch real missiles and bring real Armageddon.  Now, they have an excuse to end the fake war to avoid starting a real one.

Neutralized.  I can imagine George Carlin asking, “How come the police have never ‘positivized’ anyone?  We might all agree that at one point or another, we’ve felt ‘negativized’ by them, but you never hear that either.  But neutralized made the phrase book.  Are we talking about psychological affects, or charges of subatomic particles, or what?”  I mean, as long as our society keeps using neat and clean words to describe horrible, sloppy, murderous acts of savagery and disembowelment against our principles and our humanity and each other, we’ll continue to putter along thinking everything is fine.

The jester knew different.

Written by Interviewer

April 9, 2013 at 00:05