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ibstubro's avatar

How far should someone being interviewed by the media be allowed to define the interview? What topics can legitimately be declared "off limits"?

Asked by ibstubro (18804points) February 2nd, 2016

Sarah Palin referenced her son, Track, in a campaign rally, then subsequently declared her kid’s ‘off limits’.

Bill O’Reilly was similarly called out by candidate Trump, when O’Reilly persisted in asking about the wisdom of skipping the Iowa debate.

If a candidate references something on the campaign stump, can they later legitimately declare the topic taboo?

More importantly, where’s the journalistic integrity of the media in all this?
Should they not allow any questions to be taken off the table?
Or is bait-and-switch a legitimate tactic if the interviewee does the same?

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16 Answers

Seek's avatar

The current state of “journalistic integrity” is the reason I’m really glad to not be paying off student loans for the journalism degree I wanted.

It’s an interview. In my opinion, nothing should be off limits to ask, because the way the unwanted questions are fielded is probably the most important part of the interview.

Anyone can repeat the phrases they’ve scripted for themselves. Big deal.

I want to see the look on their face and hear the response to something they hadn’t even thought about yet.

zenvelo's avatar

Some people say “journalistic integrity” is an oxymoron.

To me, the guideline should be “anything initiated by the journalist that is hurtful to another person”. So when the Clintons said Chelsea was out of bounds, or the Obama kids, the press should not initiate anything that would in any way hurt the kids. That applied for the most part to the Bush daughters, too, except when they of their own actions brought attention to themselves.

But if the politician brings the offspring up in a political speech, the child or adult child is fair game for the press.

jca's avatar

If there’s a discussion and agreement where something won’t be discussed, the agreement should be honored.

If there’s no agreement, then it’s fair game to ask any question. However, the person being interviewed has the right to say “I don’t want to discuss that.”

LostInParadise's avatar

Anything that a politician brings up in public is open for questioning. Sarah Palin has this strange notion that she is allowed to criticize others, but criticism of her criticisms violates her freedom of speech. She is in need of a civics lesson.

As to matters not publicly brought up by a politician, the journalist should not discuss anything not clearly and directly in the public interest, which should bar most talk about friends and family.

canidmajor's avatar

The credibility of an interviewee raising a subject, then declaring it off limits is shot.

In any journalistic interview, anyone can ask anything, anyone can refuse to answer anything, but so much can be inferred by how all that plays out to the public is really more important.

Strauss's avatar

Anyone who agrees to an interview should have the right to stipulate what areas, if any, will or will not be discussed.

That being said, many “journalists” who conduct interviews are looking for the next “scoop” that makes the interview itself a news item.

Any journalist can conduct an interview, but not all interviews are conducted by journalists.

Pachy's avatar

Oh, @Yetanotheruser, I disagree. Anyone running for high elective office who agrees to an interview—especially politicians running for high elective office—should have NO right to stipulate what areas, if any, will or will not be discussed. If he (or she) doesn’t want to air beliefs and views he shouldn’t agree to an interview—or, for that matter, run.

Of course, just because a journalist CAN ask whatever he wants doesn’t mean he HAS to do so, but in today’s ratings-mad media environment, that’s a non-existent ethic.

jca's avatar

Nobody can be forced to answer anything they don’t want to answer.

Jaxk's avatar

The questions these days are often long drawn out disparaging personal attacks. I don’t see how a personal attack on the candidate’s kids should be either relevant or allowed. Think about a job interview and how you would respond if the employer asked a disparaging question about your kids. It has been a long standing taboo to do that. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t make it OK. If you have questions about issues, fine but leave the kids out of it.

Zaku's avatar

Palin named a son “Track”?

“More importantly, where’s the journalistic integrity of the media in all this?”

Laugh. Long since destroyed by culture-of-idiocy and various corporate agendas?

I’ve seen them make limited attempts to keep candidates on track in some debates. It ends up being a calculated risk of such considerations as avoiding talking about their weak points, getting to talk about some prepared topic, and whether the audience will tend to notice and if so, whether they’ll like/dislike their change of topic.

For example, in the Jan 17 Sanders / Clinton / O’Malley debate, Clinton was asked to explain how she differed from the other candidates on economic policy, and she quickly shifted to talking about some time when Sanders said something critical of Obama. O’Malley actually ended up using some of his limited time to call her out on that.

So it’s possible for changing topic to backfire. It’s also possible that the interviewer (especially in non-debate interviews) is asking a question based on assumptions that the interviewee can’t answer from their own perspective, so turning the question back somehow makes more sense than trying to answer within the context of the question.

But it ends up being up to the audience to pay attention, notice, understand, and respond appropriately. Which tends to be a lot to ask of most US TV audiences, especially since most TV “journalism” has devolved into entertainment hogwash.

flutherother's avatar

For matters of public interest nothing should be off limits. For personal matters the interviewee should be able to say if they don’t want to talk about something.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

They are politicians, nothing is off-limits. I can understand candidates wanting to keep their families out of the spotlight, but if there are good reasons for their family to be in the spotlight (and especially wives), that’s part of the job. Pollies are trained in how to manage the media. A politician’s background and life is in the public’s interest. It’s relevant to the work they do and will do and the decisions they make. If the questions are about their campaign, past, present or future, they need to suck it up and answer the question and nothing about that should be off-the-record.

In contrast, if the interview is with a celebrity who’s promoting a film, it’s a different kettle of fish. I think it’s fair for them to say “Don’t talk about my relationship”.

So whether things can or should be off-the-record depends on the interviewee, their position or role and the purpose of the interview. Certainly, the talent shouldn’t be dictating the content of an interview.

ibstubro's avatar

Personally, I think anything the candidate has brought up for discussion is fair game. Either your kids are political fodder, or they aren’t.

Personally I’m troubled by what whores the media are willing to be to land an interview. The only way an interviewer should agree to avoid certain questions is if that is announced at the beginning of the interview.
“Disclaimer: Senator Soandso agreed to this interview with the stipulation that we not ask about the illegitimate daughter he fathered by his step-mother 17 years ago.”

Let the audience in on the rules.

Jak's avatar

@Zaku I wonder if his middle name is Star.

Zaku's avatar

@Jak I’m afraid to know.

ibstubro's avatar

Field, @Jak & @Zaku.

I’m pretty sure his middle name is Field.
They were hoping for twins.

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