I have to digress a touch to make my point, so please bear with me.
So, since it’s playoff time, and we scratched our way into the division hotseat*, I am addicted to sports radio for at least another week.
I was listening to ESPN, Mike and Mike in the Morning, with two guest hosts, doesn’t matter who necessarily, or the specifics of their story. In brief, they stated that a reporter had asked a coach, or GM, or owner, whatever, what they considered to be a loaded question, and said they may have gotten better information by asking the question in a different manner. (In fairness, they did not claim to be journalists, they stated that they were just giving their thoughts.) The scenario they used as illustration was that of one of them asking his six-year-old child about a trip to the aquarium …
(para)“So I could have asked ‘You liked the dolphins, huh’, and his reply would have been ‘Yeah’, one word. But I asked ‘What did you think of the dolphins’ and his face lit up and he went on and on. So I think if you ask someone a question without an overt or covert bias, I don’t think you get the same amount of information…”
Your kid is six. Enthusiastic and talkative, and good for him!
Now, let’s consider, first the professional athlete, and the professional sports team owner/board member/general manager.
The professional athlete is typically not particularly socialized. Since grade school they have been told they are special and treated with kid gloves. They receive subtle conditioning on how to respond questions from anyone – see Bull Durham – and if they receive the open-ended how-do-you-feel question, you will get some variation of “Well, we gotta take it one game at a time, my teammates are great, I respect my coaches, god willing we make the playoffs.” Try to get specific, though. You quiz that same athlete on a bad play, at best he will say something to the effect of ‘it’s something I have to work on.’ You ask the athlete about his recent arrest for nun-beating and his agent steps in.
The professional sports owner/board member/general manager is a businessman. (There are a handful of these guys who are actually interested in putting a good product on the field, not many but a few. However, most of the business end of a sports team see team ownership as either a loss leader or a resume fluffer.) The truth crosses his lips only if there is a dollar sign involved. Businessmen are frequently not so much merely conditioned as flat out trained at gaslighting the public. Since the truth is rarely profitable, if a businessman is talking he’s lying his ass off. Give him an open question, he starts with platitudes and ends with how a stadium can only benefit the people of your city, and so his demand for a stadium or else is really a favor to the public. Give him a pointed question and he'll need an airsick bag for the amount of spinning he is about to do.
Take it to the public at large. Ask a Tealibangelical what they think of President Obama. “Supermarxistsocialisticdictatorialkenyan!” they sing in unison. Ask them what any of those words mean, and in what manner the President is those things, and you get a Palinish, meaningless word salad. Ask Jamie Dimon about the state of JPMorgan and put on a helmet, you are about to get buried in clichés. Ask Jamie Dimon “What did you do to deserve $23M a year from JPMorgan?” and it is a real short press conference.
The point is that open-ended questions don’t work on people with agendas. Your athletes and owners, your RWNJs and plutocrats, all have agendas that do not involve actual information. A good reporter gets his facts as tight as he can and then starts asking questions, with a covert or an overt bias towards the truth. Ask tough questions. Pin them down.
- · If they avoid the question, point out loudly that they are refusing to answer the question. Broadcast it far and near. Hold their feet in the fire.
- · If they inadvertently tell the truth, and the truth is a good thing, reward them. (Like a puppy. They may start liking the truth. … AHAHAHAHAHAHAHALOLOLOL!!!)
- · If they inadvertently tell the truth, and the truth is a bad thing, beat them down.
- · If they lie (they will), raze their Villages, salt the ground, humiliate them, destroy them.
The Constitution says nothing about watering the tree of liberty, or BENGHAZIDRONESOMGWTFBBQ!!!, but does guarantee a 5th Estate, a free press. Implicit in that is a duty, by the press, to comfort the afflicted and AFFLICT THE F’ING COMFORTABLE! Think, do your job. Let us assess our situations with full knowledge of the situations.We have so very much gotten away from that, by refusing to ask the questions that are based in reality. By allowing the spin and the random dog-bites-droid lunacy to replace the asking of the hard questions, on behalf of the public, we suffer as a society.
Dear The Press,
Please afflict the comfortable. Thank you, appreciated!
*And yes, you stupid ESPN sumbitches who want to change the playoff structure to have the top 6 conference teams in the playoffs, rather than the current structure of the 4 division winners and the top two remaining teams as wildcards, the Packers belong in the playoffs. We got there by winning when it counted. If your favored team did not make the bracket but had a better record than Green Bay, tell them to win when it counts. Win your division or be one of the other two top teams and claim a wildcard spot. Or go home and shut up.