Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I've been got

When did "Gotcha! Journalism" become the new phrase? 'Cause I've never heard it spoken of before Sarah Palin became a candidate for VP. But now it's being said by everyone. John McCain decries certain questions (like whether his VP candidate is saying things just like comments he has criticized his opponent for making) as being unfair "gotcha" journalism. Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller were just chatting about "gotcha" journalists as if we all have known for years who these specific journalists are that practice only this despicable form of low-brow journalism. It's the spin for how to respond to any bad answer Palin gives to any question. (Not that Bill O'Reilly would ever spin anything...) Turn the tables and claim the question just wasn't fair. The reporter is mean, maybe even unethical.

I get that in the history of our country, there have probably been examples of journalists asking the odd question now and then that was specifically intended to trip up the interviewee. I just didn't know there was an entire sector of the media that practiced only this mean, unfair "gotcha" journalism.

But has there really been a huge upswing in the practice in the past few weeks, that justifies this new category label? Or has there just been one candidate who has displayed herself to have no clue how to answer some pretty basic questions? I'm gonna go with the latter. Just because the questionee doesn't have an answer, doesn't mean the question was unfair.


Language Lover said...

I hadn't heard the term until Sarah Palin used it either, though according to the Wikipedia entry it's been around a while. Still, I agree that it's being overused in the current context. Maybe Gibson's "Bush doctrine" could be described as gotcha journalism, but the business about Alaska's proximity to Russia...she brought that all on herself.

Anonymous said...

The thing is there is an obvious double standard in how these candidates are being treated. Whatever she said in that interview (or didn't say) it was going to make news because there is such vitriol against her.

But when Obama makes mistakes there is silence. And no one questions his intelligence.

S said...

LL, I did not think to look it up in Wikipedia. Interesting!

I don't agree that there has been an "obvious double standard" in the way the candidates are being treated. Sarah Palin has only made herself available for interviews with 3 people, has not done a press conference, and last I knew had only answered one question from the pool of reporters that travel with her. The other three candidates have made themselves much more available. And she's the one most of us hadn't heard of until a month ago, so it's pretty fair that we all are more interested in learning about her right now.

Despite her general unavailability, I still think most of Katie Couric's questions were frankly fairly tame. Asking what newspapers one reads or what Supreme Court decisions one disagrees with is pretty standard interview fare. They're frankly pretty easy questions that should not stump someone seeking national office. The other 3 could all easily have addressed those questions. The reason she is being criticized and even having her intelligence questioned is because she appeared stumped on these pretty basic questions.

No question Obama and Biden have both made mistakes and I have seen them be criticized for them. But there is a big difference between Obama obviously misspeaking and saying "57 states" when anyone who actually listens to that clip can tell that he meant "47", realized his error, but just didn't bother to correct himself vs Palin's complete inability to state any specifics or string a coherent sentence together.

Anonymous said...

Who was it that asked Pete Rose to admit he bet on baseball when he was being honored as part of the all-century team? That might qualify as gotcha journalism.

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