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The cult of the interviewer

As a blog we’ve always taken a keen interest in media practice as well as output, even if we have a low opinion of modern journalism.

The latest rant by Emily Maitlis about whether women like her are taken seriously at the BBC is revealing about the practice of modern broadcast journalism. Maitlis is right to argue that women in roles like hers are subject to demeaning and unfair criticism and commentary compared to male colleagues, but she appearsutterly pretentious about what it is she does.

Fronting a show like Newsnight isn’t journalism. It’s showbiz. Journalism is a careful pracice of curation, collecting, appraising and synthesizing sources to tell a story. All too often, what Newsnight presenters do, when they’re not simply anchoring the links between filmed reports, is engage in the two most debased news products, the studio discussion and the live one to one.

For sure there are moments of high drama in live one to ones; moments when the presenter will, a la Paxman, badger a politician who wants to evade questions, or, like David Frost in his pomp, expose an overconfident conman or a corrupt president, the reality is that the vast majority of discussions or one to ones contain no new information, just lots of opinion and assertions which serve to reinforce the existing views of the audience.

Often there’s a recursive element to the live one to one; the interviewee is given an unanswerable question about perceptions of their character, then criticized in the aftermath of the interview by the commentariat for the way they failed to rebut it, ensuring that the next live one to one starts with a question about perceptions of their weakness.

If Emily Maitlis wants to be seen as a serious journalism, she should do some serious journalism. One to ones where the presenter asks questione written by someone else, to a narrative agreed by a editorial committee, is not serious journalism. If she wants to remain a presenter, maybe she should recognise that it’s not journalism, and that celebrity is a component of the presenter’s business. That being the case, maybe Strictly isn’t such a bad move.



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This entry was posted on January 27, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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