Patterico's Pontifications


Linda Seebach on Hewitt’s Interview Demand

Filed under: Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 6:31 pm

I recently posted about Hugh Hewitt’s demand that journalists who wish to interview him about John Roberts do so on his radio show, live. I observed:

The latest reporter to decline his offer said she didn’t want the story “out there” before it ran in her paper. I have a different theory: she doesn’t want to lose her control over the way Hugh’s comments are portrayed to the public. I have discussed this issue in detail previously, in this post.

I added in a postscript:

Hugh could establish for us which theory is right by agreeing not to run the interview live, but insisting on taping and broadcasting the whole thing.

Linda Seebach, columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, has written me to explain why she would never take Hugh up on his offer. She has authorized me to post her e-mail — which is, I think, consistent with my postscript:

In the specific circumstances Hugh describes, I’d have to refuse his offer too. Transparency is not a problem. Anyone who interviews me is welcome to tape the interview. (In Colorado, he doesn’t even need to tell me he’s doing that.) People who come in for editorial board meetings do sometimes tape them, though we normally don’t unless we plan to publish a transcript.

Reporters are encouraged to tape interviews; some do, some don’t.

If someone invites me to be an on-the-air guest, that’s fine too; I think the first time I ever did that was in 1993, and I show up now and again on one of the public-affairs programs on local television. The editorial page editor does a fair amount of talk radio; the editor/publisher is interviewed all the time. We have no objection to being recorded.

But “live,” that is contemporaneously, is a sticking point if I am the one doing the reporting. We have competition, and if I am working on something the Denver Post does not know about, I sure don’t want them to find out because they can hear what questions I’m asking my sources before I publish.

And embargoes (e.g., “we’ll give you an interview today on the grounds that you won’t publish before our official press conference”) would be problematic because a big reporting project can take weeks or months. When the earliest interviews are done the publication date isn’t even known yet.

Well, I think that’s quite reasonable — and I think the key point is Seebach’s statement: “Transparency is not a problem. Anyone who interviews me is welcome to tape the interview.” It sounds as though, as long as Hugh were to promise not to broadcast the interview before the story ran, there should be no problem with his taping an interview and later playing it on his show.

One more point: Hugh’s demand comes in the context of journalists seeking to interview him about John Roberts. It’s hard to imagine that any journalist would refuse to be taped out of a concern that another journalist will find out they are doing background research on a Supreme Court nominee.

Any other journalists want to weigh in on this issue?

12 Responses to “Linda Seebach on Hewitt’s Interview Demand”

  1. 1. You’re repeating your earlier point: “taping is ok, leaking a scoop is not”.

    2. Reporters tend to be fluffy intellectually (not that smart, but wanting to appear smarter than they are) and they are under deadline and they need to produce a lot of copy and they are lazy. So stories often have out of context quotes to fit into a reporters prethought out slant. Note: this whole issue was the same in 1905, 1955, etc.

    P.s. no naughty words here…

    TCO (3c2924)

  2. I’m no journalist, but it does seem as though you are being told that getting credit for a story is worth more than the story being told. At the expense of the public, mind you.

    “Sure, tape the interview, but you can never play it or transcribe it. You cannot publish my questions to you, but I will twist whatever words you may say to fit my agenda and deadline. Tape away!”

    chester (394f6d)

  3. Remember those kids in school that weren’t smart enough to pursue the rigorous curricula leading to careers in productive fields such as engineering, medicine, law, accounting and science but were desperate to stay in college? They were the Journalism Majors.

    Now, by default, they are in charge of the “journalism process” (per earlier post). We shouldn’t be surprised at their insecurity – mediocre effort breeds that condition. We should, on the other hand, be glad that at least they found a way to make a living.

    AGS (7d3618)

  4. I believe it was a 60 Minutes story from a few years ago where the subject also taped his interview with the show’s reporter. When the segment aired, the subject released portions of his tape that changed the context of the statements broadcast by 60 Minutes. From then on, one of the conditions of being interviewed by 60 Minutes is that no other recording of an interview can occur. They want sole control over the content of their broadcast. That is where the subject of transparancy gets raised. How can the viewers know the edited statements show the accurate intent of the person being interviewed?

    Meatss (1c8236)

  5. Yeah, follow my links back and you’ll see my discussion of this exact example.

    Patterico (756436)

  6. It should be mentioned that Linda Seebach is not one of the politically correct crowd.
    I would trust her to give an honest report of my words.
    Now, the general run of reporters should not be trusted. I would tape them all.

    Boman (c778ea)

  7. As an actual print journalist (I make no effort to defend the likes of 60 Minutes), I have no objection to being taped. Period. Sauce for the goose, etc. My pet peeve about interviews is when a PR person sits in on an interview and tries to control it.

    My view on deliberately injecting one’s own bias into a news story so an unfactual or misleading impression is given is that it should be a fireable offense. It is a breach of trust with the readers. For most reporters, though, unconscious bias is a greater danger.

    BTW, the reflexive anti-press bias in this comment section is a bit disturbing. The people above are so eager to trash journalists that they apparently didn’t respect Patterico’s request to get comments from other journalists. TCO and AGS, your juvenile and off-topic comments don’t exactly mark you as mental giants. I’d dearly like to see you work as daily print reporters for a few months and write about the experience.

    Folks, wildly generalizing about an entire profession is juvenile. It makes as much sense to generically trash the press as biased hacks as it does to trash the legal profession and conclude that all lawyers are amoral shysters. Knee-jerks attacks, without facts, are just so much noise.

    While Patterico sometimes makes gratuitous sneers, at least he has substantive accomplishments in correcting press errors, such as the one-sided coverage of Scalia’s conflicts while ignoring Ginsburg’s. I just wish there would be more intelligent reader comments on problems with the press instead of random sniping from the dregs of the Internet.

    Bradley (b10b6f)

  8. Sometimes I think I should rename the blog “gratuitous sneers.” It could at least be my motto.

    If I ever post testimonials, this will be one of them for sure.

    Patterico (756436)

  9. Thank you. I think you’d be even more effective if you toned down the invective just a bit. Yes, I know, it’s your blog, and I’m just a guest here.

    But your Nancy Clark post was perfect — a deserved toasting of a reporter full of herself and clueless about blogs. (That blog myopia was also the fault of the late David Shaw, for all his accomplishments).

    The press has to learn to live with blogs, not ignorantly rant as if all blogs were the same. I have found good sources by reading blogs run by experts in their fields. The bad ones, I ignore — much as I do with the print media.

    Bradley (b10b6f)

  10. If I ever post testimonials…

    I think you should.

    Xrlq (158f18)

  11. Yeah — I want to have rotating ones like Jeff Goldstein. I think I’ll have to buy my designer another memory stick for that one . . .

    Patterico (756436)

  12. Rotating testimonials sounds like a good idea for my blog, too. Does your designer offer volume discounts?

    Xrlq (e2795d)

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