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.