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Guest blog: Eddie Mair's grilling of Boris - "It's what broadcast journalists are for"(16 Posts)
Neither politicians nor Journalists have exactly covered themselves in glory during the last few years. For a journalist's report to carry any weight it has to be incisive, objective and accurate. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
Time constraints for viewing/listening time have allowed politicians to develop light weight, half or non answers to questions. We need a different format because our attention deficit life style means we barely scratch the surface. I am also rather tired of seeing and hearing the same old voices and faces (on the BBC particularly). Politicians learn how to deal with them! I'd like a revolving door of our brightest with a particular interest in the subject being invited to question in depth our public servants. That would keep then on their toes.
"Should journalists be more respectful of politicians who have agreed to be interviewed"
Dear God no!!
I can't remember the details, but some time in the past year or so I half-watched a documentary on TV and it was about when interviewers were respectful - and how the politicians basically refused to answer anything and got very snotty about even being asked in the first place. Might have been about 1930's or 1950's politicians and interviewers, apologies for my vagueness, I really wasn't paying too much attention at the time (probably MumsNetting ...).
Avoiding answering a reasonable question seems to be such a reflex response; lets face it, politicians have teams of people whose job it is is teaching the politician how to not give any information away. Sadly, I fear Armando Iannucci's 'The Thick Of It' is probably quite accurate. And because of this, journalists do have to go in quite hard, if they're to break through the soothing non-committal noise the politicians has been trained to give out. Because if there are no answers, what is the point of the interview? Political grandstanding is not enough for me, the viewer. I don't want to hear their obviously-prepared set pieces, only tangentially to do with the question asked of them. TBH I find the sound of a politician dodging answering so enraging, I've started to avoid listening to interviews .
"Boris' father has criticised the interviewer, saying "If you don't respect the man, at least you should respect the office"."
Well, either Boris' father needs to get a grip, or one of Boris's back-room team has instructed him to say that <cynical>. What has respecting the office of Mayor of London got to do with the interview? Classic red herring humphy noises.
Long live Eddie Mair, Jeremy Paxman, Kirst Wark, John Humphries et al.
The criticism is ridiculous and comes from interested parties who think the BBC should be deferential to the government, churning out Tory propaganda. (Actually I bet Cameron enjoyed it, given Boris seems to be making a pitch for the PM's job.)
Questions about Boris's history are entirely relevant given the interview was the day before a documentary on Boris's biog. The affair issue is relevant because Boris is accused of lying to his party leader about it. Being sacked for making up quotes when he worked on the Telegraph goes to his honesty - can the public trust him? Handing over an address to someone who wanted the person at the address beaten up raises issues about Boris's judgement which are entirely relevant.
I'm sure politicians would like journalists to be deferential in a 'do you have anything to say to the nation, Prime Minister?' 1950s stylie but that wouldn't really be serving the public interest, would it?
Particularly ill-timed when MPs have just voted through new laws that will strangle journalism and allow powerful vested interests to avoid being held to account - the new regulatory system could well have prevented the revelations about MPs' expenses making it into print. (The serious wrong-doing at some papers is already unlawful and was revealed by investigative journalists on another newspaper - in the teeth of opposition from the government, police and News International.)
If we were to pussyfoot around politicians and not hold them up to high standards of honesty and integrity, that would be showing lack of respect for the office.
Politicians do often need to make some difficult decisions on our behalf and we need some reassurance that they can be perceived to be trustworthy. That trust has to be earned and there's few who manage to earn it and maintain it. Many people are disillusioned enough with the political process. If journalists didn't ask awkward questions then I think that many of us who haven't already disengaged will have no idea who we would dare vote for.
Forced to answer questions? of course they should be, they are our employees and it is the only possibility we have of knowing anything other than by illegal and toroighly underhand means like those used by the papers - which have their own axe to grind.
As for treated with respect. Don't make me laugh.
Mind you, I thought that particular interview was a bit rubbish, but that's no reason to change things altogether, and it really doesn't merit the sort of fuss that's been made about it.
That he had an affair - that's between him and his wife. That he lied about it to Michael Howard - that makes it political.
I don't think it was the greatest interview ever, but where else are any incisive questions being asked?
I do wish Eddie hadn't said "nasty piece of work" as it detracted somewhat from the way he pinned Boris down. He has always been brilliant at nailing those in aiuthority who need to be nailed
Boris's father is an idiot (ohhhhhhhhhh - is that where he gets it from?)
other than the fact he had an affair (which I really don't give a shit about)
I do give a shit about this - big time! If he can lie to his wife, deceive his family - then he should have no problem lying to us, should he? And he doesn't!
'No Kosovan style social cleansing on my watch' yet he stands by and allows exactly that to happen, he has wasted millions on a chair lift across the Thames when South London is crying out for another road crossing.
Millions wasted on the Olympic stadium, selling it to West Ham for £15 million when it cost £190. Where's this Routemaster bus that has cost millions? And where are all these homes he promised to build?
Tube fares have risen above inflation, Fire fighters have been shafted because of him and he refuses to negotiate with tube workers resulting in strikes.
I wish all interviewers were like Eddie! Boris is no amiable, bumbling man of the people, he is power hungry and ruthless and will say and do whatever it takes to get the No1 job!
Boris Johnson, and all others in his position, have to be answerable for their behaviour. He has worked in journalism himself and knows the score. And, he's a master of publicity, he already seems to have come out of it relatively unscathed.
I think all journalists interviewing Boris et al should ask the most difficult questions. If they don't, I switch off - can't stand lightweight This Morning type interviews - what's the point?
Probably a few more politicians and journalists have made up a quote at some point. I doubt there are many who have agreed to get an address for a dodgy mate so they can have someone beaten up, though.
I'm not going to loose any sleep over Boris's discomfort. He is a very able and experienced politician and surely no-one is taken in by his 'loveable buffoon' act.
But I thought Eddie Mair was awful. You don't have to be an experienced journalist to make someone in the public eye squirm. That's piss-easy and at least Paxman and Marr manage to carry it off with a modicum of intelligence.
I learnt nothing about Boris from that interview other than the fact he had an affair (which I really don't give a shit about) and that he has a less than perfect career record. Give me one politician (or journalist) for that matter who doesn't.
Boris's dad however - rocks
Not respecting the office?!
Who the hell do these people think they are. They are serving the public, not the other way round, and should answer to them.
Surely politicians should be able to answer questions that affect how fit or suitable they are to be public servants?
It is not disrespecting the office to ask questions of the holder, even if they are direct and challenging ones not related to what the politician wishes to promote. It would be more disrespectful of democracy for politicians to go unquestioned and unchallenged in my view.
On the contrary - that is exactly what broadcast journalists should do. Politicians can't only expect to be asked the questions they want to answer and by the same token the broadcast journalist should pull them up as soon as they start answering the question they wished they'd been asked (which is what most of them do anyway!)
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Last Sunday, Boris Johnson was interviewed by Eddie Mair on BBC's Andrew Marr show. The quizzing has since made headlines with Mair coming under attack for his 'disgusting' questioning.
Boris' father has criticised the interviewer, saying "If you don't respect the man, at least you should respect the office".
In this guest blog, Mumsnet Blogger Pint Sized Rants argues that she wouldn't have it any other way - particularly with an interviewee as 'skilled at deflecting difficult questions' as Boris.
What do you think? Should journalists be more respectful of politicians who have agreed to be interviewed - or is it vital for democracy that they're forced to answer questions they don't want to answer?
Read the guest blog, and let us know what you think. If you blog on this subject, don't forget to post your URLs here on the thread.
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