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A journalist’s question isn’t an opinion, Ivanka

Ivanka Trump walked out of a Cosmo interview for the same reason that becomes a career-long nagging torment for a journalist: She took a question as a comment.

It has happened to me scores of times. I ask a tough question and the interviewee decides that my question reflects my opinion. In fact, for an interviewee to respond thusly is a dodge—a planned and conscious dodge, in most cases, IMO.

ivanka

Ivanka in happier times.

To all potential interviewees out there, and to the people who watch interviews (categories that I’m guessing embrace most of the sentient population of the Earth), when a journalist asks a question, no inferences can or should be made about the individual journalist’s actual position.

What pisses me off is that so few journalists point this out to their interviewees. Why are journalists so consistently surprised by this obvious, conscious dodge? The fact that this confrontation so seldom occurs is one reason I’ve lost respect for mainstream journalism. I believe that most journalists are so preoccupied with access that they lose sight of the line of questioning.

What you want to say when this happens is, this is not my opinion, shithead, it’s a question. Here’s an oversimplified example of what I’m talking about:

Journalist: “So, Mrs. Kellerman, the mayor believes that $500,000 is missing from the playground fund. As the city treasurer, how do you respond?”

Mrs. Kellerman: “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. This interview is over.”

No, the interview is not over. And the journalist should calmly explain why it’s not over, and why he or she is not part of the story.

Come on, guys. You can do it. You are not the story. And if you explain this, I think many important interviews could continue that are prematurely allowed to draw to a close.

IMO.

Here’s the story on Ivanka’s aborted Cosmo interview from The Young Turks. It’s an object lesson in what I’m talking about. In this case, Prachi Gupta did a great job in hanging in there.

Journalists that respond correctly consistently may lose access now and then. But many of them become the kind of journalists that real newsmakers want to be interviewed by, or detest to be interviewed by. And, as a journalist, that’s the kind of interview you want.

KJC dingbat-thumbnail

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