The Poynter Institute, in St. Petersburg, Florida, calls itself “the world’s most influential school for journalists.” It also has a blog! As part of its mission to influence journalism, it published some thoughts yesterday on the spectacle of NBC’s Savannah Guthrie interviewing the MAGA Teen on the Today show.
Those thoughts were: it was good! A lot of people said the interview was bad, but those criticisms just proved the interview was good. The blog post explained why this was:
When you’re getting criticized from both sides, there’s a decent chance you did a good job.
What could be more perfectly, journalistically objective than listening to criticisms from both sides and declaring that they cancel each other out? Some other good jobs that have met the Poynter test of making everyone mad: the occupation of Iraq, the government shutdown, “Jimmy’s World.”
But Poynter wasn’t just happy about the interview’s reception. It was also happy about the substance of it.
Guthrie asked the questions that most needed to be asked:;
• What happened?
• How do you feel about it?
• Do you feel bad?
• What has happened since then?
This is known in journalism school as the “Two W’s and the Two Feels”—not only “How do you feel about it?” but also “Do you feel bad?”: the full arsenal of the most necessary questions about an incident defined by everyone’s subjective response to it.
What else should journalists have understood about the spectacle?
Guthrie also deserves credit for interviewing a subject who wasn’t easy to interview. He’s 16. He likely isn’t used to being interviewed on national television, thus he likely was nervous. He also appeared somewhat stiff and prepped, and so his answers were often short and unemotional. Such choppy answers do not make for good interviews.
Everybody hated the interview, and the subject was simply giving out pre-coached answers, but the important thing is that the interview happened at all.
Money magazine has written that other publications have written that Guthrie’s salary may be $7 million a year, though the same article also spelled Megyn Kelly’s name wrong.