The practice of journalists interviewing journalists has become a pet peeve of mine.
So I was irked recently when listening to NPR’s Morning Edition and the host introduced a story about the Egypt reaching the one-year anniversary of Hosni Mubarak being ousted as president.
In order to recap the last year and the turmoil Egypt has faced in the last 12 months, the host introduced an interview guest: a journalist from the BBC.
I nearly spit out my coffee in disbelief.
A journalist, the host continued, who “has visited Egypt several times in the last year.”
Let’s put this in perspective for a moment. An American journalist was interviewing a British journalist about Egypt.
This is journalism? This is news?
Alas, it is. Nearly every major news outlet is guilty of this practice – from CNN to the New York Times. Journalists believe that interviewing each other counts as “news.” Or at least news analysis.
In the very least why didn’t Morning Edition interview an Egyptian journalist? Better yet how about interviewing an Egyptian economics professors? Or an Egyptian politician? Or an Egyptian author, artist, intellectual or cultural observer? Or how about interviewing some of the people the BBC journalist interviewed to get his information?
Can you imagine an Egyptian journalist interviewing a Chinese journalist about the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States? Wouldn’t most people consider that a joke?
The practice of journalists interviewing each other is now ubiquitous. A news staple. Mainstream media is addicted to the practice – to the point where they often switch places. One journalist interviews a colleague and a few days later the roles are reversed.
Can you imagine any other profession doing this?
I’m amazed at how many journalists and ex-journalists defend the practice. But no matter how you slice it a terrible and lazy practice. It allows journalists to emerge from covering the news to participating and shaping it. It puts the real subjects of war, famine, politics, economics, etc. into the background and elevates the journalist instead.
I often roll my eyes when Nina Totenberg, a legal reporter on NPR, is interviewed on Morning Edition or All Things Considered about the Supreme Court and its rulings. Totenberg is often cited as a court expert, despite the fact that she’s simply a paid observer of the court. She doesn’t have a law degree (or even have a college degree).
Why doesn’t NPR interview – I don’t know – lawyers or legal scholars instead? Because journalists – believe it or not – think that covering topics as a reporter makes one an expert (listen to sports radio for even 10 seconds and you’ll understand what I mean).
But make no mistake about it. When a journalist interviews his peer it undermines the very tenants of journalism.
What do you think of this practice?