Saturday, October 13, 2007

Judy Woodruff and the Fine Art of the Interview, with Ron Paul

My student Mike Plugh called this gem to my attention late yesterday - Judy Woodruff interviewing Ron Paul on the PBS NewsHour.

What's so commendable about it?

It's an interview. A real interview, not a slugfest, or worse, an interviewee as punching bag.

An interview. An intelligent conversation between two people. An opportunity for viewers and listeners to really learn something of what and how the interviewee thinks.

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, this was the way most interviews on television were conducted. But that civilized approach somehow was replaced by interviewers who somehow saw their job as interrupting their guests as often as possible with bellicose jabs and nasty cracks.

This is not really a question of politics or liberal vs. conservative. Chris Matthews is almost as offensive in his style as is Bill O'Reilly. I'm much more in tune with Matthews' politics than I am with O'Reilly's, but neither of their interview styles - the self-righteous interruption - does much to enlighten me.

I'll even admit to often enjoying these barkers, especially when the object of their attack is someone I don't agree with. But I can't say I ever felt truly educated or really informed or even just good after seeing their shows. At best, the result is a coarse thrill (same as when I've been a guest on O'Reilly's show). The crooked joy of seeing someone you dislike get bashed, or someone you admire somehow manage to get a word in edgewise.

Not so Woodruff's interview with Ron Paul. Watch it, and see for yourself.

Wouldn't it be nice if, among the other revolutionary developments in this political season, we are beginning to see the recovery of the almost lost art of the interview, the revival of the fine art of intelligent talk on television.
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