On The Job

I get asked a lot of questions by people about how I do my job, but more often I get told by a lot of people how I "should" be doing my job.

A lot of that input comes after some kind of public dustup involving a reporter, like this week's Tea Party back-and-forth between a CNN reporter and a Tea Party partier.

Most of the time, I simply say something like, "We all do our jobs differently," which is true, as reporters all have different techniques to ask questions, etc.

I like to ask basic questions and if a zinger is needed, do it calmly and quietly. There is no reason - in my book - to include outrage in your voice.

But that has worked for some people like Anderson Cooper in New Orleans during Katrina, so everyone does things differently.

I've been in situations where I've been heckled at political events, spit at by anti-abortion protestors and more.  The key is not to lose your cool.  Don't argue with the person you are interviewing, just ask questions and listen.

But I've certainly given people a piece of my mind over the years when they've gotten under my skin. But not live on the air.

Sometimes I think that reporters try too hard to make a fool out of someone, when all you need to do is let that person do the talking.

That's what it seemed like CNN's Susan Roesgen might have been trying to do by hauling what she might have thought was a possible right-wing nutbag from the crowd. Ask him a few questions and make him look like a moron on TV might have been the thought.

Arguing with the dude on live television wasn't the answer for me, but I don't speak for everyone else. We all do things differently, whether we are on the air live or not.

I remember covering the Million Man March on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Suddenly, there I was, the white kid with the red hair surrounded by about eight black men, several of whom were directly blaming me for what was wrong with the state of race relations in the United States of America.

I remember very clearly taking a deep breath and trying to smile.  I asked my questions, kept my mouth shut, asked more short questions and waited for lengthy answers.

Getting into an argument with someone you are interviewing isn't the best course of action, though I have had that happen. Luckily, it wasn't on live TV.

Thinking back, I've had people trip me on purpose on the floor of a GOP convention and slap "RATHER BIASED" (with a CBS logo) stickers on my back without knowing it.

There was the Jesse Helms Victory Party where people put out their cigarettes on my tape recorders and spilled their beers on my work area to boot.

That was after several people stood right behind the media work area and used the "N" word repeatedly, mainly I figured to see if we would jump up and object.

After 26 years in the news business, the one thing that I hang my hat on is my objectivity. If you don't have that, you aren't seen as credible by at least half of the public.

Sometimes that means taking a boatload of crap from people who believe you are nothing more than a pawn for one party or the other.

And there usually isn't much you can do to convince them otherwise.

The other thing that aggravated me this week was MSNBC doing an interview with the Homeland Security Secretary, and agreeing to ask only one question.

That's a bunch of crap.

Back during the Clinton Administration, I remember getting offered an interview with then First Lady Hillary Clinton, at about the time that Whitewater was really hitting full swing.

The White House told me that I could not ask any question about Whitewater, and I told them to go jump in the lake.

I was then lectured by the White House aide, who now runs a giant PR/media firm and probably makes more money than I will ever see.

He told me I would never amount to anything and that I had no news judgment.

Like I said, everyone has an opinion about how I do my job.

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