Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Journalism 101

They are talking about themselves, again.  No matter where I switch on my radio dial, no matter where I click the remote, there they are, the talking heads of journalism, examining their navels.

Candy Crowley, the moderator of the second Presidential Debate, announced that she will ask follow-up questions and the media-verse is agog. Personally, I'm still stuck at the fact of a person named Candy doing something so significant; I spent my childhood hearing G'ma tell me that Susan was a name for a Supreme Court Justice, and that Betsey (Davey Crockett's gun's name and my choice for renaming myself) was not.  I cannot imagine what she'd make of Candy.

But, I digress.  In my defense, it's easy enough to do with this topic.  There are so many many many ways that it makes me laugh.

The conversation on POTUS, Sirius Radio's Politice Of The United States channel, was hard to follow. The commentators, journalists all, were laughing more than they were talking. They were flummoxed, bemused, stunned .... the thesaurus was consulted as adverbs flew from microphone to microphone.  Their profession was under attack, and they were up in arms.

Ms. Crowley's plan to violate her contract - one wonders why she signed it in the first place - and be more than a traffic cop at the Town Hall session wasn't discussed in a legal sense.  Would one of the parties sue her for taking an active role?  If I've learned anything over this campaign season it's never say never; the speakers ignored that issue entirely. I wish they hadn't.

I'm not sure how I feel about someone making an agreement and then changing the rules after the fact. I would have liked to have heard the conversation between the debate's sponsor - the non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates - and the journalistic community as, one after another, they refused to take the gig.  If you're going to have standards, then have standards from the start.

Ryan Seacrest could keep things moving along just as easily and he wouldn't pretend to have reportorial gravitas; if it's a show, let's admit it up front.

Somehow, after more than two years of campaign rhetoric and advertising and speechifying, the Gallup Organization managed to find 54 (or 52... or 50) undecided voters on Long Island to make up the audience and ask the questions.  I'm having a hard time imagining anyone in my home territory being un-opinionated about anything at all, let alone something as divisive and good for an argument as this. I wonder what else they need to hear and I worry about giving someone that wishy-washy a platform.

Giving the questioning opportunity to amateurs may be good theater, but it also makes for tedium.  Without the will to hold the candidate to the question, to pull him back from the pivot, to refuse to allow him to make his point instead of answering the question.... that's something that Jim Lehrer wouldn't/couldn't/didn't do, something that Martha Raddatz did pretty well, and something that no amateur in the crowd is going to even try... not with the lights and the cameras and the current and the wanna-be President of the United States of America standing 5 feet in front of her.  Knowing that your words are being broadcast makes for some powerful emotional reactions.  Keeping your head to ask the question coherently is one thing, interrupting the President and wondering why he's avoiding the substance of what you asked is something else entirely.

I am not sure that anyone will be able to do that.  Personally, I'd equip the moderator with a mute button for the candidates' microphones.  But, given the plaudits sent to Ms Raddatz and the stink bombs sent to Mr. Lehrer, given the kudos Ms Crowley is receiving for vowing to make sure that questions are answered and followed up, perhaps we might see a change in the profession as a whole.

Laughable, I know.  But a girl can dream, can't she?  In the meantime, listen to what real journalism sounds like


  1. When i read that she may follow-up with questions, I was apprehensive. BUT... when she called RMoney out on his lie about Libya and the President saying it was a terror attack the next day, I cheered for her. I was glad someone interjected. Otherwise, RMoney would continue to spew his lies.

    The debate was awesome! O is back!

    Megan xxx

  2. Thank you for posting Edward R. Murrow. What a journalist; what a voice of reason. I'm afraid we will not see another like him.


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