Sunday, June 08, 2008

Turning tables on ambush journalism...

This is an amusing post and footage from CrooksandLiars.com where Bill Moyers and another "journalist" turn the tables on a FoxNews Bill O'Reilly "reporter."

My personal take is that this is a form of journalism--it is, however, bad journalism as the story is more about the reporter and personal attacks than anything substantive. The ambush interview has been around for at least 100 years. The famous early 20th Century journalist, George Seldes, tells the story about how, as a young reporter, his editor asked him to go see William Jennings Bryan make a speech and get an interview afterwards. The editor told Seldes to specifically and primarily ask Bryan when he'd run for president again. The editor knew Bryan would react strongly and perhaps violently against Seldes--which Bryan did. The editor had his story, that the reporter was attacked by a "crazy" (my quotes, not Seldes' or the editor's) Bryan.

Note also the battle between Moyers and the O'Reilly employee primarily concerns who will appear on whose show first. Moyers knows O'Reilly edits his shows, as does Moyers. However, in the unedited video linked to at the beginning of this post states, Moyers says he will not edit O'Reilly's appearance on Moyer's show. If O'Reilly says all he wants to do is talk with Moyers, then an unedited show should be sufficient for O'Reilly, shouldn't it? O'Reilly, in my opinion, is now trapped, as he has already done the dual appearance with Stephen Colbert. Why not appear on Moyers' show, who O'Reilly has attacked?

In fairness to O'Reilly, in an earlier ambush interview O'Reilly's show did with Moyers, Moyers did try to deny statements he made concerning O'Reilly that Moyers in fact made. What is strange to me is why Moyers would deny making statements that are utterly uncontroversial as far as millions of Americans are concerned. O'Reilly does spew venomous words against those with whom he disagrees. O'Reilly is also reasonably seen as being part of a slime machine, particularly against Democrats and people seen as "liberal."

I think it would be good ratings for both Moyers and O'Reilly to face each other. Let's see if O'Reilly rises to Moyers' challenge.

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