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photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Siddown Matt, and Let the Lady Talk

My dad was a news photographer- and a gifted one.

For years he accompanied the reporters to the stories, recording the visual aspect that would catch the readers' eye even moreso than the headline- a thousand words and all that.

I remember him coming home from football games, sometimes scuffed up from being inadvertently tackled at the sidelines- that telephoto lens sure messes with depth perception.

I remember him coming home from celebrity interviews, sometimes with an autograph.

I remember most vividly him coming home from the sad stories- accidents, fires, tragedies of all sorts, and almost without exception he would've taken his photos and retreated quickly before the reporter started their part.

What he couldn't stomach were the questions. Not well thought out information gathering journalistic inquiries, but those the reporter perceived as such.

"Mr. Jones- you've just lost everything you own to the tornado that went through last night- how do you feel?"

"Mrs. Smith- you're very lucky to have survived that auto wreck- how does it feel that the rest of your family didn't make it out of the car before it exploded?"

If the average reader gasps and is tempted to throttle the reporter, it's considered "hard hitting coverage".

The reality is that it's not. It's insensitive, shock value garbage just a little lower on the journalism food chain than supermarket tabloids. At least those have no basis in real life and don't tear the guts out of suffering families.

Even your average kindergartner can't help but ask incredulously, "How do you THINK it feels, you dumbass?"

Or, if the reporter really has no idea of what to ask, the next best thing is to ask what you've got loudly or rudely and call it "edgy".

Matt Lauer is the master of this form of "hard hitting, edgy journalism".

You can tell that he thinks he's doing great- that his role as anchorman for the morning show will be validated if he gets heavy-handed with the guests.

Sorry, Matt. It's not. All you accomplish is to be completely unlikeable by coming across as rude and pushy.

An interview is basically a conversation between two people even though the interviewer generally has an idea of what he/she wants to cover in the allotted time frame.

Cutting off the answer to the question you've just asked is rude, no matter who you're talking to.

Raising your voice to someone is rude, especially if that someone is your guest. On your show. Your morning show.

If I see a Matt Lauer interview coming on the TV, I turn it off.

Yanno who gives an excellent, calm, thought-provoking interview?

Ann Curry.

Class act all the way.

Just once I'd like to stick a microphone in Matt's face and say, "Matt Lauer- no matter how hard you try, how loudly you interrogate or how abruptly you cut off your guests mid-sentence, you will never hold a candle to the reporting skills of Ann Curry."

"How does that make you feel?"

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