Aren’t reporter types supposed to humiliate and befuddle political interviewees? I have lost or mitigated that instinct. Maybe I’ve been a UU too long or have fallen back on my Southern heritage too cozily.
In recent podcast interviews with three candidates for Boston mayor, I have relied on our standard method instead. We have one person at a time, with no surprise guests and no trick, gotcha questions.
The issue of the obligations of the interviewer have fluttered in my mind since watching Frost/Nixon recently. Like the related turning points of All the President’s Men, I thrill when the good guys have a breakthrough.
Yet, from my newspaper days of high school, college and professional, I know too well that the vast majority of news and analysis simply doesn’t offer the possibilities of great moments, sudden revelations and confessions. As much as blathering cable-new talking heads pretend the trivial is the pivotal, the typical story, as young folk like to say, is what it is.
Sometimes though, even in my blogging and podcasting persona, I smell the arena and hope for verbal combat. I anticipated that when I booked soon-to-be-disgraced Sen. Dianne Wilkerson on our show. She backed out and would not be interviewed by us or anyone.
Instead of the theatrical and even vicious, over at Left Ahead, we try to go for the much more low-key insightful. We are, after all, three progressive sorts who share similar political goals, even though we differ on some.
I suppose that’s maturity, even if less exciting than the figurative spurting jugular from the perfect ambush question. Thus, I really appreciate Chris Lovett’s shows over at Neighborhood Network News for many of the same reasons. He’s no drama queen trying to lure a news figure into some snare. He asks well focused and researched questions that leave the viewer with a much keener sense of the guest and topic. I love it.
Given the chance with a crooked pol, I’d surely rise (or sink) to the occasion. I’d go against my upbringing as I did as a reporter and go for the real story. Week to week though, we don’t see that.
It looks like we’ll get incumbent Mayor Tom Menino on soon. He certainly doesn’t fall in the crook class, but there are obvious sensitive areas for a man who is infamous for hating to be criticized. (He supposedly doesn’t like that criticism either.)
I’d be happy to have him explain what he wants to do in a 17th through 20th years that he was unable to in the last 16 as mayor. That’s probably far more meaningful to voters than trying to corner him on one of the stereotypical points. Rather, we put on our voter clothes and wonder what we get if we keep this guy in office.