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Posted by on Sep 11, 2007 in Media | 30 comments

General Petraeus’ Exclusive Interview On Fox News

turnip.jpg

Shouldn’t they have called the show “Softball?”

Question: Did whoever decided to restrict General Petraeus to ONLY getting “interviewed” by Fox News after his remarks to Congress think most Americans fell off the turnip truck?

Generally, officials interviewed by professional journalists get tough questions with the interviewer often making a list of questions beforehand that they and their top editors believe are lingering out there.

The idea behind this is NOT that journalists are evil and out to “get” anyone (the easy explanation some on the right and left immediately use when a news organization runs something unfavorable to someone they like…and then when the same news organization blasts someone they don’t like, it’s a great organization), but the journalist is supposed to be the proxy for the public and ask questions that people are asking — not limiting questions so the really tough questions are not asked.

Limiting questions to make sure that sources don’t get the really tough ones, and keep them from being challenged vigorously about key assertions, is usually the work of public relations people (who do have an important function and role and do some great work but don’t generally interviews on newscasts).

The result, if the news source answers them head on, is an increase in the legitimacy of the person being interviewed — because the person addresses negative perceptions or information.

It’s like someone trying to sell a product or going for a job interview: the need is to overcome all objections.

A pablum feeding P.R. interview boomerangs: it gets journalists who were excluded mad (and they are then determined to get their tough questions out later on in other forums…but get them out), does NOT enhance the legitimacy of the news source and those who opposed or question the news source all along see the softball interview as an act of news control…and fear of tough questions.

Which this most assuredly seemed to be.

P.S. Most Americans did not fall of the turnip truck so all this will do — again — is be seen as an interview aimed at the Republican party’s base. And Petraeus lost the chance to immediately get his message out to non-Fox News fans via other outlets. He may talk to others later on (such as to a morning show…or will that be only on Fox, too?). But the damage to him and a chance at smarter PR has been lost.

In terms of understanding the value of having Petraeus make himself available to a wide variety of news organizations, and not play favorites by limiting his first interview to a company widely perceived as being the administration’s best bud, whoever set up the interview must have…fallen off the turnip truck.

With a loud thump.

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh watched the interview and calls interviewer Britt Hume “The Britney Spears of Journallism.” (Yes, some could consider what Mr. Hume was doing a lip sync of sorts…)

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • Robert Bell

    The medium is the message?

  • truflo

    As a know-nothing no one from nowheresville, even I understand that while the surge has temporarily succeeded in some areas, its stated goal of creating order and space so that some kind of political settlement can take place is doomed to failure. The Sunni will not lie down with the Shiite, not as long as they can continue ethnic cleansing under the unintended protection of the Petreaus and Bush plan.

    There’s is little doubt that congress will give the administration what it wants and that six months from now we will be back where we started with the Bush admin arguing that the surge continues to work and non-partisan reports saying the opposite.

    With Bush insisting there will be no withdrawal of troops as long as he is commander in chief, there is little to no reason for the Iraqi Government to make unpopular decisions, The power grab will grow apace, as will the ethnic cleansing, Iraqis will continue to die in their thousands, US troops in their hundreds and billions of dollars will be spent propping up a policy no one anywhere believes in anymore.

    The pre and post Petreaus testimony PR blitz has worked brilliantly, the surge not so much. But the war at home has always been more about perceptions than reality, and reality loses again.

  • jdledell

    I forced myself to watch this travesty of journalism. When Hume lead Patreaus down the garden path of Iraq is really AlQaeda, I was ready to turn off the TV. Patreaus tried to throw in some nuance but in the end just ended up agreeing with Hume.

    The entire Patreaus show, afternoon and evening editions, was nothing more than a PR offensive. The American people deserve more than spin. We should have gotten what Joe Friday from my favorite childhood TV show, Dragnet, always asked for – “all we want are the facts, ma’am”.

  • Davebo

    Question: Did whoever decided to restrict General Petraeus to ONLY getting “interviewed” by Fox News after his remarks to Congress think most Americans fell off the turnip truck?

    Yes, they did. The more depressing question is why. Because as a group, we apparantly have.

  • casualobserver

    Interesting to note all the outrage being uniformly expressed on the lefty blogs………but has any other network made any sort of comment……”we offered, but were turned down?”

  • Petraeus gave lengthy one-on-one interviews to several DOZEN reporters in the weeks before his testimony, up to the day before he appeared. Including USAToday, Time, NYT, NY Post, Boston Globe, UK Times, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS (twice), etc.

    But that his first interview after his testimony went to (gasp!) the cable news network with the highest weekday primetime viewership, well, that’s just incontravertible evidence of, well, something or other.

    What a bunch of wing-whinging.

  • jjc

    Tully, Fox News is seen, not least of all by themselves, as a propaganda outfit. Their ties to the GOP are unlike anything in the free world as far as relationships between government and the press are concerned.

    Still, if the interview had been conducted according to any acceptable standards of journalistm, complaints about Fox News might be besides the point. Instead, the interview was devoid of any adversarial questioning. Britt Humes performed as though someone hired him to help Petraeus make a case.

    Petraeus and Hume both demonstrated a complete absence of awareness that credibility has become the dominant issue as to why we are in Iraq and what we’re accomplishing there.

  • domajot

    FOX had its chance to prove the critics wrong by doing some real journalism. It chose, instead, to prove the critics right.

  • No matter what Fox does, it will “prove its critics right” since Fox’ critics will interpret whatever Fox does as bad. It is just a parlor game in certain circles to throw out “FoxNews” as a way to get a self-righteous chuckle/sneer from the politically correct.

    I for one am tired of the anti-Fox harangues. Fox is no more or less unbiased than any other news source (CBS News, anyone? NPR? LA Times? New York Times?). Every person has a different perspective and information is not automatically wrong just because it airs on a particular network. Bashing Fox has just become another way of automatically dismissing all information that is contrary to the predetermined “required thought”. Maybe some people should just stick to the data and stop trying to ad hom away everything that challenges their preconceptions.

  • jjc

    I for one am tired of the anti-Fox harangues. Fox is no more or less unbiased than any other news source (CBS News, anyone? NPR? LA Times? New York Times?)

    Everyone is to some extent or another biased one way or another. Talking about bias is a way to obscure what’s going on.

    What’s different about Fox News is that they have an agenda, demonstrable through textual analysis of what stories they cover, for how long, when they stop, and terms they use.

    Of course, those who conduct that analysis are subject to ad hominems from Fox personnel such as Bill O’Reilly. There is, in the end, no disproving of charges of bias, which is why right-wingers like them so much.

    But Dick Cheney doesn’t insist that all televisions in rooms he enters be turned to Fox News for nothing.

  • “Fox is an evil tool of Chimpy McHalliburton BusHitler! Waaa! Waaa! They didn’t throw a hog-tied naked Petraeus to a crack-addled Keith Olbermann equipped with red-hot branding irons and razor whips! Waaa! Waaa!”

    LMAO.

    Petraeus gave lengthy one-on-one interviews to several DOZEN reporters in the weeks before his testimony, up to the day before he appeared. Including USAToday, Time, NYT, NY Post, Boston Globe, UK Times, AP, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS (twice–Charlie Rose AND Jim Lehrer), etc.–and that’s an incomplete list. He will doubtless do quite a few more in the days and weeks to come.

    But that his first interview after his House testimony went to (gasp!) the cable news network with the highest weekday primetime viewership, well, that’s due to a VRWC. Pathetic wing-whinging.

    What Jason said, and then some. Andrew Sullivan and Gleen Greenwald went all whiny-ballistic when Hugh Hewitt managed an interview (as y’all are doing) but I didn’t hear anyone complaining when Petraeus was interviewed by Charles Gibson or Alan Colmes or Brian Ross. Apparently an interview is only acceptable when done by the politically correct interviewers. Otherwise, it’s an affront to civilization and “journalistic ethics.”

  • What’s different about Fox News is that they have an agenda, demonstrable through textual analysis of what stories they cover, for how long, when they stop, and terms they use.

    Sure, but that is not “different”. Textual analysis of stories in the New York Times has shown a systemic bias against “conservatives” in reporting about Congress as well as a preference for negative economic news over position during Republican administrations and the inverse during Democratic administrations.

    And those who conduct THAT kind of analysis are routinely called “neocons” and other terms of abuse too. Name-calling is hardly the exclusive domain of the political right, as anyone reading TMV comment threads can easily find out.

    Bias is pervasive in political news and opinion and it is time that the left stopped getting the vapors when they find coming at them the same thing that has been coming from them for decades now.

  • jjc

    Jason, if you want to claim Fox is no more agenda-driven in its coverage than anyone else, I’m very unlikely to convince you otherwise. But remember when they claimed to be unbiased? They abandoned that line, in favor of, “well, the other guys are biased one way, so it’s okay for us to be biased the other.

    But neither you nor Tully addressed the interview which was the subject of this post. If you don’t like Fox News being slammed, then I would think you would defend this interview against the charges of bad or non-existent journalism.

    I’m saying this interview is an example of how Fox does journalism, which is not at all really. If this sort of interview is acceptable to you, well, I guess we at least know where each other stands.

  • Defend it against what? Your not liking Fox? Your disappointment that Hume didn’t chain Petraeus to a pole, hose him down, and apply electroshock to his genitals until he produced the answers YOU wanted to hear? A failure to inquire if he quit beating his wife, just-answer-yes-or-no-General? Heh.

    I’m saying this interview is an example of how Fox does journalism, which is not at all really.

    In comparison to whom? AP? Dan Rather? The New Republic? NYT? Brian Ross? 60 Minutes? Charles Gibson? Chris Matthews? And on what specifics? Try using direct citation to contrast with any of the many previous interviews of Petraeus.

    For that matter, one also notes that Congressional Democrats had HOURS to ask Petraeus and Crocker questions these last two days, which “interviews” were carried nationwide on multiple cable outlets, in whole and/or part. Was that insufficient for you? Aren’t the Democratic Congresscritters good enough interviewers to suit you? Do you feel that the Dem majority failed to use their time effectively and ask the tough questions?

    So far all I have seen is wing-whinging that [a] they don’t like Fox, and that [b] Hume didn’t act like Keith Olbermann on a psycho-sadist meth jag. Well, so effing what?

  • egrubs

    I’m confused. So this interview wasn’t a puff-piece? It was real journalism?

    I need to return to school. I think I missed that class.

  • Sam

    Oh come on Jason. FOX is headed up by Roger Ailes for crying out loud. Read his resume, his entire career is doing PR and attack ad strategy for the GOP. Lee Atwater once described him as having only two settings, Attack and Destroy.

    The “Liberal” media as far as I can tell is far more informative and balanced in doing its job. At least it was until FOX started dominating ratings and the rest copied them.

  • Translation: Blah blah blah, yada yada, blah blah blah.

    IOW, more pompous ad hominem.

  • domajot

    “the cable news network with the highest weekday primetime ”

    If popularity is the standard, then Petraeus should have appeared on the Daly Show.

  • domajot

    Reasons for throwing out cliches like ‘politically
    correct’. are, of course, pure and above board?

    “Blah blah blah, yada yada, blah blah blah.”-
    is, of course, an example of intelligent debate?

    A whole lot of people here are living in galss houses

    My opinion of FOX is based on a panel discussion on journalism some years ago, during which Murdoch stated that it was his intention to promote a certain political view, and that he felt that was perfectly legitimate. He was quite frank about the money making potential in doing so. I see no reason to doubt his word, based on the content at FOX.
    Before accusing others of not giving poor FOX a fair chance, people should check with the man in charge about what it is they are defending. But maybe that’s the whole point: some just like what they hear and can’t understand why others don’t.

    That’s not a debate about principles regarding the press, that’s merely a statement of personal preferance and ovet bias.

  • Rambie

    “…more than anything else a War with al Qaeda.”

    Ok, let’s just take that at face value. The Iraq war is now a “War with Al Qaeda”

    So let’s talk about that. How are we doing against this terrorist group? How is that other front in this war *cough* Afganistan *cough* going?

  • casualobserver

    In this instance, the lefties assume facts into evidence and then write their article around it…….and that’s supposed to be REAL journalism?

    First of all, what Supreme Being declared this spot just had to be adversarial to count as “journalism”?

    To my low conservative IQ, I quickly identified this spot as a re-presentation of the testimony packaged more for the general TV audience. Obviously, such an expenditure of TV time does not fit the Kos Kids agenda, but what the hell, Fox does not sem to be all that dumb when it comes to pulling in viewers. Petraeus and Crocker seemed to fill up the time slot for the most part without taking a breath nor repeating themselves. It’s their report, why shouldn’t they be able to deliver it without someone else going somewhere else with the allotted time? How does that become journalism? 8 out of 10 of Hume’s questions were clearly clarifiers to faciliate the above-described venue……that was patently obvious to me……..ah, but Taylor Marsh’s brain registered it as “White House talking points”?

    And listen to the interview before you say Hume brought up Al Qaeda or Iran (or at least get your hearing checked). Petraeus clearly broached both subjects before Hume went back to them.

    Isn’t part of journalism the ability to get facts straight? None of the “journalists” above pass my test for that.

  • egrubs

    WIthout defending anyone involved in any other newspaper, and without attacking FOX’es business model or goals…

    This is what passes for journalism?

    If it’s what passes for getting viewers in a time slot, then more power to it for its (assumed) successes.

  • Sam

    “Fox does not sem to be all that dumb when it comes to pulling in viewers.”

    Neither was Jerry Springer.

  • Still LMAO. Thanks casualobserver, for getting the point. And thank you others, for not addressing a single question I asked, and thus confirming that I was spot on as to what REALLY disappointed you. Namely, the lack of thumbscrews, rack, and hot pincers, the non-appearance of a coerced confession, the failure to produce any twistable and meme-boosting soundbites, etc.

    Is Fox biased? Yep. As are ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN. And the NYT, Boston Globe, UK Times, NY Post, etc. ALL media outlets are biased to one degree or another, in one way or another and even in multiple ways, and always have been. They serve their market demographics. The ‘impartial press” is and always has been a myth, one promulgated in public perception by the homogenized bias of the broadcast media monoliths of the 20th century. Monoliths shattered by advancing technology. Lefties would love to blame the market segmentation of modern media on Fox (“it’s all their fault!”) but Fox didn’t do it, they just succeeded at serving their market. Satellite, cable, and the internet did it, fracturing the old business model of national broadcast monopolies into definable and reachable niche markets. Pissing and moaning that your preferred niche isn’t an uber-monopoly just makes me laugh.

    Not one word of complaint from the left about “bias” when any of those other media outlets interviewed Petraus. Nope, only when Petraeus appears in a media outlet they don’t like do they even notice, and then they howl like a spoiled brat who didn’t get a second candy bar. I suspect the real disappointment is that that outlet they detest serves a much bigger niche than the one they’re in.

  • Everyone outside of the cult of right wing true believers knows that Fox is infinitely more biased than other news outlets. As was noted, Murdoch is very up front about his desire to cater solely to the politically conservative audience. Yet the believers try to deny it over and over again and when that fails they then try to claim that all of the evil commie pinko socialist MSM is just like Fox only from the opposite direction. They also make the same claims about conservative talk radio. Sorry, but none of it is true. There is no media outlet as biased as Fox. That won’t stop them from repeating it over and over and over again, though.

  • jjc

    To my low conservative IQ, I quickly identified this spot as a re-presentation of the testimony packaged more for the general TV audience. Obviously, such an expenditure of TV time does not fit the Kos Kids agenda, but what the hell, Fox does not sem to be all that dumb when it comes to pulling in viewers. Petraeus and Crocker seemed to fill up the time slot for the most part without taking a breath nor repeating themselves. It’s their report, why shouldn’t they be able to deliver it without someone else going somewhere else with the allotted time? How does that become journalism? 8 out of 10 of Hume’s questions were clearly clarifiers to faciliate the above-described venue……that was patently obvious to me……..ah, but Taylor Marsh’s brain registered it as “White House talking points”?

    casual, I suppose it couldbe journalism if the major question of the day was, what are these guys saying? The implication would then be, Fox is doing us the service of helping us to understand what is unusually complex, the idea being, once we understand, everything’s downhill from there.

    Ah, but there’s a little problem here, which is that a serious whole lot of people are majorly skeptical about whether they’re getting the whole picture from these guys and/or whether these guys are giving us an undistorted picture of what they are showing us.

    This you would never know from this interview, and it’s hard not to suspect that we’re not intended to know. That might be your idea of journalism, but it isn’t mine.

  • Sam

    I’m with Jim on this one. FOX’s actions are so consistent, so blatantly right that I find it hard to find comparisons in other networks. There are abberations in the “MSM” that certainly tilt far left, but on the whole it is way more balanced.

  • Translation: Blah blah blah, yada yada, blah blah blah! BLAH BLAH BLAH! BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!

    Yup, disagree with the True Believers who hate Fox, dare to think that, while biased, it’s just another damn media outlet, and one suddenly becomes a lunatic right-winger. Cluehammer for the nutburger left here: I’m a pro-choice pro-gay-rights community activist who works in real politics in the real world. But I’m also pro-reality and pro-fact and anti-bullshit, which automatically classes me as a “right wing true believer” whenever I disagree with the Church of the Perpetually Disgruntled. (Unless I’m tearing down rightwingnut BS, when I suddenly become a liberal nutburger…funny how that works!)

    Yeah, it takes real intellectual superiority to claim that one outlet is “infinitely more biased” than ALL other sources, without providing any examples or proofs, just additonal isolative ad hominem. (For the educationally challenged among you, that’s “more name calling.”) And when challenged, just claim it louder and with more feeling, click your heels three times, and it’ll all be true! That’ll show ’em!

    Bullshit. Ad hominem and demonizing the outlet does not prove anything but your own complete inabilities to rationally analyze the event. I see that no one has bothered to address how or why the appearance on Fox was in any way a breach of journalistic ethics. No one has bothered to compare any of the DOZENS of other Petraeus or Crocker interviews with the Fox appearance, and ID any significant departure from journalistic standards as compared to other outlets. No material response at all, just more “Hate Fox! Fox evil! Rupert Murdoch is Son of Satan!” Piled higher and deeper.

    And Pinch Sulzbereger, owner of the NYT (which gave MoveOn.Org a 60+% ad discount to run a full page front-section ad in the NYT calling Petraeus a traitor) is a journalistic paragon of objective moral virtue? Heh. Dan Rather and his old CBS crew? Gods of impartiality! The New Republic with its vaunted fact-checking department? Gospel Truth, baby.

    Still LMAO.

  • jjc

    Cluehammer for the nutburger left here: I’m a pro-choice pro-gay-rights community activist who works in real politics in the real world. But I’m also pro-reality and pro-fact and anti-bullshit, which automatically classes me as a “right wing true believer” whenever I disagree with the Church of the Perpetually Disgruntled.

    Did some left-winger shoot your dog or something? You seem to be channeling Zell Miller here.

    The original point of discussion here was Fox News’ “exclusive” (their term) interview of Petraeus, and how it didn’t seem much like a real interview of a very public figure representing a very controversial topic on The News.

    In the midst of all your bloviating, you’ve had nothing to say about that interview.

  • I really couldn’t care less what you think, Tully, or what makes you laugh. While you may claim that you are pro-choice and pro-gay rights every post you’ve made here and most of what I’ve seen from you has been pure attack dog from the right. An example is that one report from ABC mentioned how much MoveOn supposedly paid for their ad. Then every single right wing blog in the world apparently picked up on it and you relayed their message on it. I simply pointed out that Fox is in fact more biased and more openly biased than other news organizations. It’s a simple truth and you can rant all you want to but it won’t change it. It is not saying that Murdoch is the Son of Satan or anything else. It is simply pointing out that he has a definite pro-Republican right wing agenda that Fox News is under a mandate to support. It’s been proven over and over again. The fact that you don’t like it being mentioned and feel that you must make every other news outlet in existence seem to be the exact same only from the left doesn’t make it true and certainly does nothing to make anyone other than right wingers think you really have any regard for reality and facts.

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