Journalism and Democracy: An Evaluation of the Political Public Sphere

By Brian McNair | Go to book overview

5


THE INTERROGATIVE MOMENT

In representing the public before politicians the interviewer is required to be an authoritative figure: a licensed interrogator of the powerful, trusted by the audience and respected by the politician. Like the columnist or political editor of the previous chapter, the interviewer’s journalistic role goes beyond that of reportage to one of commentary, interpretation and intervention. These are realised not through what the journalist-interviewer writes or says directly about the issues under discussion, however, but in how she positions her subjects to speak, or not to speak about them. In this respect the interviewer’s role is like that of a courtroom lawyer questioning a witness. The interview is the adversarial moment in the public sphere. After new facts have become available, and the battle for interpretation has begun, the interview is the point at which those who are the subject of the news can attempt to clarify, contradict or add to the facts as reported. In negotiating these efforts the interviewer enjoys something approaching the privileged status of the pundit. And like the pundit, the interviewer must acquire credibility in the eyes of the audience; an authority which legitimises and makes possible the journalistic challenge to those who, as actual or aspiring political leaders, we might also wish to afford some respect. Like the pundit too, the successful political interviewer is a key element in the branding of the organisation for which she works. Her approach must be distinctive in a crowded marketplace of functionally similar interviewing ‘brands’.

The drive for interrogative authority and distinctiveness has fuelled an inquisitorial ‘arms race’ between interviewer and interviewee; an ongoing

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Journalism and Democracy: An Evaluation of the Political Public Sphere
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables and Figures vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Journalism and Democracy 1
  • 2 - The Political Public Sphere 14
  • 3 - Policy, Process, Performance and Sleaze 42
  • 4 - The Interpretative Moment 61
  • 5 - The Interrogative Moment 84
  • 6 - The Sound of the Crowd 105
  • 7 - Spin, Whores, Spin 122
  • 8 - The Media and Politics, 1992-97 140
  • 9 - Political Journalism and the Crisis of Mass Representation 171
  • Notes 180
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 199
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