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Who says journalists must be jerks? Journalism dogma spurs unwarranted criticism of Matt Lauer’s civil, effective interview with Sen. Craig 10/17/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in AttitudeJournalism.
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“Matt Lauer is no Mike Wallace” whines Washington Post’s Tom Shales. He condemned the Today Show host for the audacity of conducting a civil interview with alleged gay-airport-bathroom-sex-solicitor Sen. Larry Craig. Shales did not like Lauer’s deferential tone, nor that Craig “pleaded guilty to nothing,” as if this is something reporters routinely make Senators do. And yet, based on the Lauer interview, any thinking viewer could have easily surmised that Craig was guilty — his plea bargain came after several weeks of thought; he never mentioned the incident to a lawyer, his staff, or even his wife; his out-of-nowhere, pre-emptive self-defense when the Congressional page scandal broke many years ago; the police tape in which the Senator answered the earnest police officer’s questions in a hesitating and lawyerly manner; his overly-rehearsed and unconvincing answers to the questions we ourselves would ask.

The silly idea that reporters must be rude and curmudgeonly is a recent development, and one that could only survive in a non-competitive news environment. One non-believer is Fox News guru Roger Ailes, who recommends a book by James Fallows that gets to the root of this “attitude journalism.” Fallows says that “real investigative zeal has been replaced by a kind of lazy attitudinizing” — for example, asking high-ranking officials questions “in a snarling and hostile sounding and suspicious sounding way, that makes you seem tough.” Is this really the best way to get revelations from uncomfortable interviewees? Is this really the best way to draw adoring audiences? To believe that, you’d almost need to have attended journalism school.

Comments»

1. Anonymous - 10/17/07

Barbara Walters always seems to get points for getting her guests to cry!

2. Ed Driscoll.com - 10/18/07

Kick ‘Em When They’re Down

Dan Riehl notes, “Leave it to a real journalist to go over the top”:So much for bloggers stalking people in the news. Leave it to a real journalist to go over the top. Police say there was no crime comitted…

3. Jon Ham - 10/18/07

LOL for real at that last line.


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