Ambush interview

LOOKING ASKANCE - Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 28, 2015 - 9:00am

Journalists would understandably be offended once they hear the views or the expectations of some political candidates that before they are interviewed, they get to see the expected questions during the interview so that at least, they get to prepare for the interview and don't come across as too idiotic.

The expectation can be as mild as finding out in advance what the interview is about, so the potential interviewee can decline it if they know nothing about the topic.  Or it can be as rigorous as requiring submission of the entire list of questions.  And it can get even more rigid: some politicians dictate that there can be no veering away from the questions, and there will be hell to pay if the interviewer so much as go off-sequence.  Let's not even get into that scenario where a script is manufactured, and both "journalist" and interviewee just read canned Q & A's for the benefit of the live audience.

That may seem shocking for the public, but those are the realities of the game. A broadcast journalist or his media outfit may not land that interview with the hot celebrity or the charismatic politician du jour, and so they agree to negotiate parameters for the interview beforehand.

Here is where it gets tricky.  When is journalism and the ethics surrounding it compromised?  If the politician gives his honest views to the question, then does it matter whether he already knew about the question coming his way?

Some will probably say it shouldn't matter.  Take a look at how well prepped the candidates are during debates.  They've rehearsed their answers multiple times with their team and gone through rehearsals galore.  So nothing is genuine, anyway, and it all becomes about delivery and panache.

Others might say it might be ok to give advance topics, but not advance questions, much less a script, heaven forbid!  Once the interviewee gets wind of the question, then of course they would already formulate a nicely calibrated answer designed to weasel them out of the corner they might find themselves in.  Where then is the honesty in that?  What does the public get then?  Not really the truth, but a spray painted, highly glossed version of it.

Deciding where to situate one's self in this landscape can end up becoming a minefield, to be sure.

Do journalists have to keep it strictly professional to be true to their profession, or should they lend the candidate a helping hand so both the interviewee and the interviewer land into a rhythm that's pleasant to view, and perhaps, they can even  deliver an electrifying show in the bargain?  Is it about the show, or about the truth? Should it be all about exposing the falsehoods and the hypocrisys, or entertaining the audience?

All these considerations came swirling about when the public was exposed to the alleged bullying by broadcast journalist Karen Davila of former nymphet and now political candidate Alma Moreno.  An unnamed staff member of Moreno is reported as accusing Davila of veering off the pre-agreed questions, leading to the disaster that followed when Moreno was asked about reproductive health, women's rights, and gay marriage.

Let's not get into the issue of whether Davila breached her "agreement" with Moreno, or Moreno's performance during the interview.  What is more interesting for me is that issue where Moreno's camp apparently negotiated those roped-off questions for her, and Davila's camp likewise accommodated those negotiations.  

Was this true?  If so, what does that tell us about the integrity of Davila's journalism?  Where are the rules for journalism ethics, anyway?  Where do we find the code?

If there's one good thing about that now classic interview of the Loveli-Ness Moreno, it's not the memes that came out (those might be a close second).  It's that the public gets confronted with these issues, and they get more perceptive about the fodder they're being shoveled with by media.

Hopefully, we got more voter maturity in the bargain.

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with