May 24, 2010

When is asking a question "gotcha" journalism?

"One thing that we can learn in this lesson, that I have learned and Rand Paul has learned now, is don't assume that you can assume in a hypothetical discussion about constitutional impacts with a reporter or media personality who has an agenda, who may be prejudiced before they even get in the interview in regards to what your answer may be or the opportunity that they seize to getch ya," she said. "They're looking for that 'gotcha moment.' That's what it evidently appears to be what they did with Rand Paul."— Sarah Palin
If I understand her correctly — and there is always a fairly large margin of error in any such effort with regards Sarah Palin — I think she is saying that Rachel Maddow asking Rand Paul what his views were on the civil rights act amounted to an instance of 'Gotcha' journalism. Traditionally of course, the term "gotcha" refers to a cunning trap, set by an interviewer, deploying distraction and indirection to back an interviewee into saying something inadvertantely damaging. Simply asking Paul what he thought about something doesn't really count. There's another term for that, far less technical. It's called "asking someone what they think about something." It amounts to "gotcha" journalism only for those ashamed of their views, as Paul appears to be of his willingness to allow racism to flourish in public spaces. (And it is cunning only to those for whom questions what newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with represent the acme of journalistic nefariousness). One can only sympathise. If you find yourself in possession of a shameful view, you only have two options: 1) you can hide the view, and call it "gotcha" journalism when it is flushed out of you, or 2) you can change your view. Palin and Paul would seem to belong to the former school. A lifetime of prevarication is theirs. How treacherous the world must seem.

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