Gladiatorial Interviewing is Ersatz Journalism

Here is a grumble about gladitorial interviewing which is practiced to entertain rather than inform in my view…

From: Vaughan Smith
Date: 22 June 2012 10:28
Subject: Re: CNN interview request

Name, do you feel that what you promised in your email below is
close to what happened during the live with Max Foster last night?
Though it was inconvenient, I came to CNN because as a journalist I
feel a responsibility to address issues of public concern when asked
to do so. I know Julian Assange well and it is right that he has some
support in the western media. But that doesn’t make it appropriate to
beat me up as a token disbursement towards balanced journalism on
Julian’s bid for political asylum.
I was grateful for the opportunity to get one full answer out, but how
was it reasonable for Max to keep interrupting me before I could get
out a response to his question on whether the Swedish girls were being
denied justice? I wasn’t being evasive. It is an important question
and I was clearly trying to answer it.
Interrupting in this way is meant to distract and seeks to disrupt a
respondents ability to deliver a useful answer. It is aggressive and
in this case favoured contest over enquiry. Do you, or Max, or your
team at CNN think that this indulgent use of gladiatorial journalism
was really the best way to inform your viewers? Or are you comfortable
with the illusion of dashing journalistic attendance it delivers?
Well in truth it tak
es no courage to reinforce public sentiment

against a man who believes that he is running for his life.
Regards, Vaughan

> Hi Vaughan
> So, after a chat with my producer, we are very keen to accommodate your request to talk about the wider political issues in Julian’s case. Although we will need to start off the interview asking about Julian’s asylum case and your relationship with him – to set the scene for our viewers – we will then move the discussion to talking about the wider political issues. On a day when Ai Weiwei is back in the headlines and due to give CNN his first on screen interview since his detention tonight, it will be an interesting comparison to make, raising issues about the concept of the western dissident (as you said) and whether they are recognised/tolerated. We would also like to discuss the change in Julian’s public image: how he has gone from a champion of free speech to a fugitive in the public eye and whether this image reflects the majority opinion of his work (particularly outside the ‘Western’ world).
> Although time will be tight as ever, I will make sure Max gives you at least one question on this wider context at the end of the interview, to give you the opportunity to share your views on this.
> How does this sound? If you’re still concerned I can get you on the phone to Max briefly this afternoon so you can explain directly to him what point you would like to make.
> In terms of timings we would ideally like to do this live as we are expecting news from the Ecuador government later in the day, which might date any interview we do with you earlier. We would need you here for 8.50pm — I think if you can leave the Frontline Club by 8.30pm the Bakerloo line might be the quickest way to get down here. I’m happy to get you a car for afterwards if needs be.
> Let me know your thoughts.
> Many thanks
> Name