News in 20th Century America; 14; B'cast Interview
The following program was produced and be courted by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service undergrad and aid from the Educational Television Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters news in 20th century America. A series of radio documents on the gathering writing and dissemination of news compiled from interviews with the men and women who make news their business. Without particular reference to any specific interview. In this area there has grown up on both local and national levels. Recently the kind of interview. The principal purpose of which. Seems to be to. Treat with sensationalism rather than. Let us say. Substandard. And yet less exciting areas of interest. Where you can consider this properly No I don't know because it depends on your definition of
news. If information is elicited. No matter what its character I suppose you have to describe it as news. But whether this particular kind of interview serves a useful purpose or not is I think critical and I would doubt that in the mean. It does the voices that have John Daly newscaster and vice president of the American Broadcasting Company Mr. Daley is one of several distinguished newsman including Mike Wallace and mark in the grunts whom you will meet on the broadcast interview. Today's edition of news in 20th century America. Now here is your host at Burroughs. When is the broadcast interview on radio and television a legitimate news technique. And when is it simply entertainment. How far me an interviewer go in probing the activities or personal life of his subject without being guilty of invasion of privacy. These are some of the questions you will hear discussed today from the point of view of the interviewer and industry spokesman as well as from the critics of the broadcast industry.
And B she's marking a grand scale he has conducted several nationally televised interviews series. We asked Mr. A grand scheme whether he thought such interview was fitted into the overall pattern of news coverage in a significant way. Indeed I do I see them sitting in a most significant way. I think if you can go to a. Man who is. Important. In the news. And have as I did in my. News interview show look here. Almost a solid half hour in which to. Ask him questions that you think would be of interest to the general public. Then you would have an excellent opportunity to tell a lot about how the man thinks why he thinks the way he does. I think it gives the. Viewer and listener.
The kind of glimpse into the man as a human being as well as as a policy maker. It can be very rewarding. In recent years Mike Wallace of ABC has conducted one of the more controversial interview programs to be shown on radio or television. Had he ever attempted to draw a firm line between what was news and what was entertainment on his program I suppose. That my own program on the network was to some considerable extent considered entertainment. Many of them were entertainments of sorts. There was news value in them. There is frequently news value in entertainment but in many of them it was incidental. Now when I say in many of them I would say that when I interviewed for instance the head of the Ku Klux Klan there was a kind of grisly entertainment value involved but basically it was
a news story. When I interviewed Diana Barrymore I would say basically it was an entertainment story it was a feature story it was a it was something that you might find in the feature section of a Sunday newspaper or something that saw it. When I interviewed all the problems it was a news story. When I interviewed Malcolm Muggeridge while the queen was here that was a news story of sorts. Mind you there were entertainment overtones to both of those stories and were using entertainment in a very loose sense here. The last series that I did with a bunch of the republic. That was. Certainly it was partially entertainment and it certainly. Was not. Hard news was not spot news coverage because these interviews could have taken place now or two years from now or 10 years ago and still had more or less the same kind of validity. That was one of the problems that we faced. People didn't really understand.
What we were doing whether we were in the budget we had pigeonholed ourselves exclusively as a news program or as a public affairs program or as an entertainment program and frequently there was a little of each in each of the interviews. Well when Cyrus Eaton for instance took off of the FBI and that the what he called the super snoopers of our government this became news. There was a certain kind of entertainment value in seeing this man perform in the fashion he did. But this was news because here was a man with an empire of 2 billion dollars who could hardly be accused of being a subversive saying that we have too much that we are headed in the direction of becoming a police state according to him and B that are the leaders of our government are not trying hard enough. Too. I'm not trying hard enough to. Reach some kind of rapport with the Russian leaders. This is news when a man of the
stature of Cyrus Eaton sensed something with the sword. How does the interviewer prepare himself for an interview with a celebrity. How much advance planning is involved how much warning does the interviewee get. MARTIN A grand skate tells us of the techniques he prefers. I do a lot of research. On the background of the man whom I'm going to interview. Then when I look over the research. I decide that this that or the other aspect of his life and work. Seem to may be most interesting to explore. Having made that decision I blocked out. Roughly a kind of the area of interview. Which strikes me as the one that will be the most interesting perhaps in political figure the most provocative. And in newspapers figure the most entertaining. And
generally. Try to block out an area that I think Will. Make the best. Listening and viewing. And then having decided on that area myself. I arranged a meeting with a man who I'm going to enter here which maybe a week before or two weeks before the actual interview takes place. And in the course of that meeting. I conversed with a man along the lines. That I have blocked out previously but at the same time I deliberately try to lead him into another area into other areas that might interest him that might have suggested themselves not might not have suggested themselves to me. That way when I'm finished with my research plus a conversation with a man that I'm going to interview. I then have. A pretty good idea of where the most fruitful area is to operate in the course of the interview.
Now as to your question do I tell him all the questions I do not what I do tell him who is in the area and which we will be doing the interview. Because I feel that to say I'm going to ask you such and such a question and such and such a question. It destroys a spot in their day of his response and also freezes the end of year for him and to. A certain pattern. And I think it makes it much more dull to listen to the Mike Wallace type of interview has been labeled a sort of cross examination at the pub. We asked Mr. Wallace seem to approve of his methods. Those who watched the program did. Those who heard about the program not having watched it some of them did not. But over the course of a year and a half on the net but of course we had interviewed maybe
two or three hundred locally in this particular way before we went on the network. But over the course of the year and a half that the interview was on the air we interviewed probably 75 people. And I would say that out of the 75. 70. Worthwhile interviews considerable information. About our life and times was gleaned because of these interviews. There was a considerable amount of news value there was a considerable amount of entertainment value. When you say yeah does the public approve is it important that the public approve if you yourself. Feel that you're doing a substantial and responsible job. The public there's a certain segment of the public that doesn't like to get riled up. They don't want to hear certain kinds of talk they don't want to hear certain kinds of controversy discussed on the air.
How did Martin the grand scale regard the Mike Wallace technique. What part do shock and sensationalism play and such an interview program. Suppose I were to answer in this fashion that when I see the interview that I did. Which I call Look here. Wallace was already functioning with his interview in Mara with. Well. Mr. Morrow was. Very obviously and in fact I've spoken to him about this. Not trying to do. Anything in the area taking away what a person saw. It was deliberately kept. On. A surface level. So that you can see where a celebrity lived and what his family looked like and it was just sort of a visit to the celebrity into his house. There was no effort to do anything deeper than that.
WALLACE On the other hand. Was. Deliberately trying to. Introduce into every interview what one might call a. Shock question. In which he supposedly was laying bare. The innermost thoughts of the interviewee before some millions of people. Well of interviewee will sit still for that. And. The technique succeeds. It is. Certainly attention getting. It is successful I suppose in the sense that anything that does command attention is successful in our business. But when. The whole. Tenor of the interview is designed. To produce a sensation.
Primarily. Rather than information primarily. I think that the interview at that point has. Moved. Pretty completely out of the. News area into the area of. Shall I say. Entertainment. For example. If you sit a man before your camera. And you happen to know as I knew in the case of one man in my interview. That his. Mother had been a prostitute. That his father had abandoned her when he was about a year old. And that. His whole life naturally had been colored by. This childhood background. You were then
faced as a responsible reporter. With the question of whether what is a completely. Whether Where is 8 and obviously very relevant. Kedar the character of this man and to the direction in which his life is moot and whether these facts. When you recognize that these facts explain something about this man. Then you are faced with a question as a responsible report. Well even conceding that you could presumably know this man better if you brought these facts out and watched his reaction to them. Should you do it. Is this perhaps a matter that is best left to the. Psych typists. Responsibility rather than to the interviewers
responsibility. For my decision in. This particular case in any such case and I cite this merely as an extreme. Example. Is that it is not the public's business. It is this man's private life. And that. While the fact might be revealing and explaining a lot about the man. Still that. It is my function. In terms of decency and responsibility to avoid that area. Now I could make every head every newspaper in the United States act like the front page of it. If I dug into that. What would I be proving. I would be hurting the man. I would be making a sensation. I would be indulging what I regard as a completely irresponsible. Approach to the business of
interviewing. If on the other hand I had before I'm a. Trade union. Boss like. Hoffa. Or back. And my research had dug up. Certain facts. Which would demonstrate. The misfeasance or malfeasance in office by this individual. I would then consider it my duty in the public interest. I consider myself responsibility. To bring those facts out in the course of this interview if I could. Now I cite these two extremes for. But my speak for an obvious purpose by. Demonstrating what is involved here in the interviewing business is a sense of taste a
sense of decency. A sense of responsibility. I felt that in doing my interviews. I wanted to be as interesting as I possibly could. At the same time I felt that there were certain areas of a man's life which were none of my business and not of the public's business. And a matter of how revealing those areas might be a matter of how the titillating. It might be to. You or listener to see or to hear him squirm as those areas were revealed. I felt that it would be indecent. To move into this area. And this was my approach to the thing. I also felt that it wasn't my function to operate as a prosecuting attorney. It was my falsely good information. Can the needling type of interview the cross-examination broadcast to the public at
large be justified. Isn't there a danger that that intangible doctrine invasion of privacy may become involved. We put these questions to John Daly of ABC. You have several problems involve the invasion of privacy factor. I can pay no attention to it all. Barring the accident. You are the first one to appear on a particular program of this kind and therefore have no prior knowledge of the style and the concept of the interview as the principal intends to conduct it. You might have. In that instance of being the first one some invasion of your privacy but once the form of the program is generally known I don't see how any person who accepts the invitation to appear can complain about an invasion of his privacy by going on the program he does in effect forfeit their right to privacy because he knows exactly what line and character of questioning is going to be faced with. The
principal problem I think in this area if you examined this particular kind. In terms of whether it's news or not. The problem is is the interviewer equipped to do his work. In some instances they have been in other instances they have not. And where you have a trained journalist of years of experience and background. Who may elect to be more sensational than Stade you might have this kind and character of interview and yet it might produce some very newsworthy material. But if you have an interviewer is fundamentally untrained as a journalist. What too often can happen is that the interview we. The man who is so shall we say semi professional in the business of being interviewed and he's accepted the invitation to appear. Can use the interviewer as a
foil to put across. At the very worst false syllogisms one right after another and at the very least some special pleading which may not necessarily be vicious but which is still special pleading. And how did Mike Wallace himself feel about the problem of invasion of privacy. Well it depends what you mean by invasion of privacy these people. Again I'm not I'm I must focus on my own techniques. These people. Were not any of them subpoenaed to sit in that chair. They have to come of their own free will. They came for nothing. Their expenses were paid. In consequential money. They wanted to talk. And they had given me carte blanche because they knew the way that we operated to ask questions. Hence there was no invasion of privacy and invasion of privacy is when you set a man down in a chair forcibly so to speak and then expose him to the
multitude of the people with information that he doesn't want exposed. But I dare say that if you would talk to any one of the interviewees with whom I worked you would find that they were quite content with the material that was brought out. Dr. Charles a Sikh man is chairman of the department of communications in education at New York University and author of books on society and communications for the sake of a sensational news story or entertainment value alone we asked Dr. Slepian can an interview a reporter go too far where if anywhere should he draw the line. This is a very subjective matter on which I suppose we all have. Our private opinions and I have mine and. I do think that. Journalism by and large these days and I speak of journalism as embracing radio as well as a press of course and TV. Have. Reached a point of insensibility. That I find quite offensive.
Whether these people are peculiar or distinguished from their fellows in our time I'm not prepared to say. I think is characteristic of our age perhaps aggravated by the actions of the press. But we seem to have less regard for privacy. Than our fathers did. And I would prefer to see as have greater privacy. We live in an open windy world. And the very fact that we are so much exposed I think should make us concerned to. Protect the walls of privacy more carefully and more diligently both for ourselves and in consideration of others. I think the way the press feels it has a right under the rubric of the UN aid and the right of the freedom of the press. To move in on people in situations of personal tragedy. A trial gets run over in the stricture we say when the journalist is inside the door before that all can be closed. And we get
very descriptions of the TS Dain face of the mother and every detail of her emotional reaction to this tragedy. To me. This is deeply offensive. Not a moment in my life where I hope. My neighbor will respect my loneliness and my privacy. And I think this is a beautiful thing and a necessary thing in human relations. And as we disregard it we grow coarse in our feelings towards one another. And I think the interviewing of people on the air. Carrying the questioning as I have heard on certain occasions. Into the realms of. What I think anybody would assume to be strictly private marital relations for example. Here again I think we have evidence of a valid curiosity. That has to be condemned. Now Curiosity is a beautiful thing. But vulgar curiosity to
probe deliberately into that which in my judgment should be private is offensive and made the more offensive for the market that is available to it through mass communication today. Now you may say well conceding the point that this is about. There are two parties to this question certainly in interviews only an hour. A person doesn't have to answer. And I think that's fair enough and I could only wish. And that's why I say I think it's symptomatic of our time. Rather than of journalists as such. I could only wish that more people. Cross-question should we say by Mike Wallace on matters touching upon privacy. Back in his face and said This is an area to which I do not admit your questions. That would be a good day when a person stood up and was counted in that sense because there would be somebody misspeaking the form of good manners that I value and others would hear it and the challenge might take effect. But to come back to your central point I think the point of privacy is a matter of
sensibility of manners and of decent feeling. On which. There are special claims on you and me in an era as open and windy as this world of modern mass communication. The very fact I think should make us more sensitive to the abuse. Both curiosity as offensive says Dr. Slepian Gilbert Silva is eminent critic of the media himself does not see eye to eye with Dr. statement. What about the whole war as the Wingate type of interviews. Oh I. Think I'm a minority in the minority of critics. I think that it is so necessary to have an independent and active and sometimes imitating program that. I'm willing to. Allow what may sometimes seem terrible vulgarity
and certainly often is an invasion of privacy. The compulsion to go on these programs does not exist. People go on because they want to advertise the books that they've written on the shows they're with or whatever it may be. They go around knowing perfectly well that these people and there are others like them now will be asking extremely personal questions. Let them stay off. I would not censor these people. I would say. That in every individual case. You are judgment your taste must be decisive with this. Still with this thing in the background that 99 percent of what you hear on the air in the way of interview is his name the pen being trivial. I have been sometimes an occasional. Snap into. A. Cycle of eccentric iconoclasm which doesn't really count for very much.
You get so little that is penetrating so little that's intelligence that is worthwhile and you get so little of the real human being in the responses. And I say by all odds. That is allow the vulgar. Let's allow the invasion of privacy if necessary in order to get a genuine responsiveness and genuine personality and some inkling of truth coming from the people who revealed good taste a sense of decency and responsibility. These are key phrases for the interviewer. If he can exercise these without sacrificing his curiosity and intellectual vigor then he should satisfy his critics. The public and himself. You have been listening to the broadcast interview one of a series of programs on news in 20th century America. In the series we explore all facets of the gathering writing and dissemination of news in this
country today by means of recorded interviews with a leading news men and women interviewers for the series are Glenn Philips and Ed Burroughs consulted on today's program was Professor Kenneth Stewart of the University of Michigan Department of journalism. News in 20th century America is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant and aid from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Larry Jones speaking. This is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
- News in 20th Century America
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- B'cast Interview
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- News in 20th Century America is a radio series on the gathering, writing, and dissemination of news. Each episode addresses a specific topic in the news industry, and features interviews with men and women who make news their business. This program is produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service in cooperation with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
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