‘Morning Joe’ interview with Congressman can be a lesson for sports journalists as well

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I’m not trying to wade into politics here – although I’ll gladly discuss my second fave topic elsewhere – but this interview with a Texas Congressman can serve to teach all journalists how to address sources who attack, deflect, obfuscate and conflate. Just imagine that an athletic director, coach, commissioner or agent is speaking instead.

Rep. Kevin Brady, the source interviewed during a segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” was asked about part of a tax bill that will probably come to a vote later today by Willie Geist, among the better interviewers on TV. In particular: he asked about carried interest, a term very few people know much about. But isn’t that a reason we watch, listen and read news?

Brady instead decides to go on a blue-sky rant, extolling his perceived, positive spin. But Geist persists, politely asking the congressman if he would address the question. Brady then goes on the attack, first asking if that’s the best question he has (a composed Geist said this is only the first one), then later saying interviews like this one are why Americans are turning off network news (a lie that was addressed by Joe Scarborough). Then, Brady says Americans don’t even care about “carried interest,” which is often the case when information is hidden away (UFOs aside, that is.) But that’s why journalists ask questions like this one, and sometimes why sources won’t respond. They’d prefer to keep people ignorant on relevant issues in order to more easily act as they would like.

Sports, of course, do not impact Americans in the same manner as government does. Nonetheless, sports journalists face sources who are combative in the same manner as this U.S. Congressman. When that happens, we need to remain professional. Sometimes, that means politely repeating questions or citing further information. On rare occasions, it means being more aggressive or forceful (as illustrated at one point by Scarborough).

There’s no reason to allow sources to speak inaccurately or to act disrespectfully. Every interview is different, but the one above can help explore the ever-changing dynamics of conversations with sources.

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About jgisondi

I am the author of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports," the second edition now available from Congressional Quarterly Press/SAGE, and "Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot" (U of Nebraska Press). Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition goes beyond general guidance about sports writing, offering readers practical advice on covering 20 specific sports. From auto racing to wrestling, author Joe Gisondi gives tips on the seemingly straightforward—like where to stand on the sideline and how to identify a key player—along with the more specialized—such as figuring out shot selection in lacrosse and understanding a coxswain’s call for a harder stroke in rowing. In the new Second Edition, readers also explore sports reporting across multimedia platforms, developing a foundational understanding for social media, mobile media, visual storytelling, writing for television and radio, and applying sabermetrics. Fully revised with new examples and updated information to give readers confidence in covering just about any game, match, meet, race, regatta or tournament, Field Guide to Covering Sports, Second Edition is the ideal go-to resource to have on hand when mastering the beat. In "Monster Trek," Joe Gisondi brings to life the celebrities in bigfoot culture: people such as Matt Moneymaker, Jeff Meldrum, and Cliff Barackman, who explore remote wooded areas of the country for weeks at a time and spend thousands of dollars on infrared imagers, cameras, and high-end camping equipment. Pursuing the answer to why these seekers of bigfoot do what they do, Gisondi brings to the reader their most interesting—and in many cases, harrowing—expeditions. You can order both from Amazon.
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