I'm all for tough interviewers, but Fox 9's new anchor Heidi Collins stepped way over the line in her recent grilling of newly relected Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. See the video here: http://bit.ly/bGbPgH
A couple thoughts:
Collins starts off the interview with the kind of tone I suspect was used at Guantanamo Bay. She then asks Ritchie to respond to accusations that he's an ACORN activist - and then needles her guest for not answering the question. Problem is: Ritchie DOES answer the question, at least tries to while Collins says: "Could I ask the questions? I ask, you answer." Not only was she wrong in painting Ritchie as a question dodger, but she showed a level of rudeness that's unacceptable - no matter the situation -when it comes to a person at that level of office.
Collins' greatest sin: Going after Ritchie for saying before the interview that he was "prepared" for a recount. Collins' tone makes it sound like that's a BAD thing, even as Ritchie tries to explain that recounts are actually quite frequent in Minnesota and that, of course, they're prepared.
But let's just not trash Collins (a veteran CNN anchor who should know better).
Let's also lay some blame on the entire station for an interview approach that I've never liked. Despite the fact that Ritchie is obviously in studio, he's shuttled off to a side room so that he's only talking to Collins through a camera lens rather than being face to face. This offers the prosecutor - er, I mean, the interviewer - a huge advantage. Collins is a veteran of talking into a camera. Most interviewees are not. It's an awkward way to talk to someone. Fox isn't the only station to do this. Ted Koppel more or less invented the form and Bill O'Reilly has mastered it. It's an awful tradition and one that should be reconsidered, along with the idea that Collins should be allowed to do anymore political interviews.
UPDATE: In an earlier posting, I stated that interviews through a camera lens, even when the guest is in the studio, is "common practice" at KSTP. It happened to me several years ago when I was on their morning show. Assistant news director John Mason informed me this afternoon that their current policy is to "avoid doing it with newsmakers because it makes them feel uncomfortable." Good for KSTP and bad for me using such a blanket statement when it didn't deserve it.
UPDATE 2: I asked a Fox spokesperson if either Collins or news director Bill Dallman would like to chat about the criticism. All I got in response is an e-mail statement from Dallman: “If you want to watch hard-hitting interviews that hold politicians accountable, watch FOX 9.”
Not exactly a response that addresses some of the key issues. Talk about dodging the question.