Friday, October 5, 2012

Whether you're moderating or interviewing, you have to remain in control

After the first Presidential debate, I was wondering if Clint Eastwood's empty chair had returned in the guise of a moderator.

Rarely have I seen a so-called network journalist (don't get me started about PBS) get steamrolled as badly as the moderator did in this debate. He had no control over either candidate while having as much energy as a potted plant. I was wondering if he died in 1995 and no one's told him yet. Why those who decide on debate moderators continually subject us to people from PBS is beyond me. Maybe they assume the public thinks PBS is objective. Yeah, right.

Mitt Romney brought up Big Bird. He would have actually made a better moderator.

The point is, the journalist must always remain in control. Debates or interviews, you control the questions, you can stop candidates from filibustering, you can interrupt if the person doesn't answer your question, you can ask the question again if it isn't answered the first time.

A couple of good examples of people who control interviews are Fox's Bill O'Reilly and ABC's Jake Tapper. Regardless of your feelings about either of these men, watch the way they remain in control. Both are adept at controlling multiple guests, and often when Tapper fills in on the Sunday morning show, it's five or six people.

Others often seem to be too polite to interrupt, or, in the case of the debate, don't have enough clout to do so.

Young journalists are often intimidated when interviewing high-level people. Don't be. You may be a rookie right out of college interviewing a career politician, but you have to set the tone and let the person know who's boss. Be fair yet firm, and don't get steamrolled.


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