"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

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.

1 comment:

Mike Plugh said...

The first thing that struck me about this interview is that I'd never seen Ron Paul afforded the type of time he was given by Woodruff in any prior media appearance.

When given the opportunity to expound on his beliefs and correct the misrepresentations of his position (unintentional on Woodruff's part, I must add) a clear and identifiable ideology emerged.

The marginalization of these "lesser" candidates is a disgrace on two particular fronts, in my opinion:

1. It devalues the strong belief that each candidate's supporters have in their vision. No matter how small the following at the start of the campaign season, it is the duty of the media to give it equal airtime. Those underreported movements are killed before they have a chance to catch fire.

2. It paints a picture of reality by framing, or framing out, certain viewpoints that are inconsistent with established power. It essentially assures that the Republicans can be easily pegged as pro-war, anti-immigration, fiscal conservatives while the Dems are tax and spend, anti-war, socialized medicine types. The frame has been set. The sides have been defined by their caricatures. There is no room for complexity in this election.