Gotcha Journalism


We cede to no one our place as the No. 1 fan of Megyn Kelly, the news anchor and analyst on Fox News Network. This Irish rose has brought original reporting skills and ideological animation to what had increasing become a roster of shouting boredom at Fox. And if sexist, make the most of it, but we appreciate her beauty and feminine allure, from what the French would call a woman of a certain age. [It would help, of course, if she would knock off those asides to her producers and other set companions which are often indecipherable to us listeners or too muffled to hear properly.]
But when she was interviewing Jeb Bush a while back, unfortunately, we saw her join her colleagues in what is becoming the destruction of what is left of oldtimey American journalism, the pursuit of gotcha. Gotcha consists of catching a public figure in a misspoken phrase or word, usually by accident, and making it into the major story rather than the original subject matter iself..
In this case, to those of us watching the interview, it was obvious immediately that Bush had misunderstood a question. Kelly asked the hypothetical query: what if he knew then what he knows now, would he have endorsed the second American military foray into Iraq. He gave her an answer that seemed to turn things on its head, and instead of rephrasing the question to permit a logical reply – if there is one to such a query – she ran with it. Then Bush, and who knows why, managed to muck up the whole situation for almost a week while he tried to escape the “gotcha” which descended on him from the wolf pack the Washington media have become.
We are getting another highly publicized dose of gotcha just now again.
Donald Trump, who more often than not has hoof in mouth affliction, took off on the very real problem of criminal illegal immigrants from Mexico among the vast number of otherwise law-abiding if illegal aliens. He could have phrased it better. But it was clear that he neither was indicting the great bulk of the Mexican Americans and more recent immigranrts from Mexico and Central America, legals or illegals, nor the country of Mexico. In fact, Trump brought attention to a very real problem which had been dramatized by the accidental assassination of a young woman taking a walk with her father on one of San Francisco’s most treasured venues. But Trump’s phraseology permitted a chorus of “gotcha”, especially from the vast leftwing conspiracy that is the Capital’s media.
Trump, however, unlike Bush is turning the whole affair into a gigantic stunt to get more publicity. [“Never mind what you call me as long as you me for dinnah [cq]”, runs an old Suthen [cq] adage.] In fact, Trump whiplashed MSNBC interviewer Kathy Tur quite effectively on her several attempts to gotcha him in a long interview, more characterized by its battle of wits than information on the candidate’s opinions and views on his chances for the nomination.
Gotcha is so infections, however, that it is making it increasingly difficult for the mainstream media to produce a news report that is not a series of episodes about misspoken quotes rather than what is at the root of major events. There is no better example than the reporting on the negotiations between the Western powers plus Russia and China to beat back the Iran mullahs’ attempts to go for weapons of mass destruction. The gotcha reporting tells us all about the latest comings and sayings of Sec. John Kerry and the Iranians participants, their wisecracks [especially on the Iranian side] in real time on camera.
But there has been little or no reporting of the basic drift of the negotiations in the direction of Tehran, most notably the change from a Washington no-holds-barred effort to halt nuclear proliferation to an acceptance of a new “nuclear threshold” for Tehran. That would mean, at least in theory, that the Islamic terrorist state would have the capacity to build a bomb – you can have your own choice of within what time frame according to your expert. But through their own restraint and an effective network of international inspection, there would be no bomb. The original Washington goal of denying the mullahs mp access whatsoever to enriched uranium and the wherewithal for a intercontinental missiles system to deliver a bomb has got lost in the gotcha..
Hopefully, as the digital revolution metamorphoses into something better, we are moving toward better journalism. That’s if gotcha doesn’t get us first.
sws-07-12-15

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