By Joe Gandelman / 08.10.2016
The Moderate Voice Editor-in-Chief
For many Baby Boomer trained journalists who are working or retired, one of the most frustrating things to watch is to see how journalistic standards have been (ahem) relaxed as we move into the new century – particularly in the area of follow up questions. Professional partisan spinners can simply repeat (often in a way that sounds and most assuredly is memorized) pre-written responses to try and explain away the failure or political sins of their political tribe’s candidate. In the 21st century version of fairness, in many cases this spin goes unanswered and it almost certainly involves the spinner a)trying to rapidly change the subject b)going after the reporter asking the questions to deflect from the issue at hand. NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has dealt with some of these dilemmas on his must-read-for-media-junkies website Pressthink.
I say bravo to CNN’s Don Lemon for a segment yesterday when he wouldn’t let spin on the issue of whether Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump was suggesting to followers that the assassination of Hillary Clinton might be a way to halt her her Supreme Court nominations, if she wins. Trumps campaign scrambled to do damage control, offering varying explanations, and going on the attack to try and deflect from his comments.
A bit of disclosure here. I’ve been on CNN a bit over the years as an independent, moderate voter talking head on some of CNN’s Don Lemon’s shows. But way before that, I told people that in the way he interviews and tries to get responses from his interview subjects, he’s very “old school,” particularly when it comes to not letting guests be evasive and get away with it. I also read and reviewed his book several years ago.
But, yesterday, to me — someone who worked as a freelance in Spain, India, Bangladesh, and on two chain newspapers as a staff reporter, as a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism — Don Lemon reached his peak in the controversy of Trump’s “joke” about assassinating Hillary Clinton.
He would not allow the spin (that even a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli on the shelf of Ralph’s on Carmel Mountain Road in San Diego would watch and scream “SPIN!”) from Trump supporter Dan Bongino to go unanswered, insisted on answers in follow ups, and then called it for what it is. I was listening to it on Sirius XM radio and was almost started cheering.