Smile, Everyone is Watching: On How I Would Choose My Dream Interviewer

Which news program (past or present) and news host (past or present) would you pick to sit down with for an interview based on known perceived opinion styles? Why?

(Answering a question from the selected notes of Kimberly Mock and Matt Pomeroy regarding Jacobs and Townsley’s work “The Space of Opinion”)

As I first approached this question, I couldn’t help but notice my immediate desire to qualify the parameters. My instant urge was to seek out, create, and set in place, a framework for the definition of appropriate responses. Knowing this, as I move forward it may be helpful to provide a description of the boundaries I will allow for myself in the selection process. This may shed more light on my decisions and intentions. Of course, it may have the opposite effect as well. But I am disinclined to acquiesce to the demands of meaning formulation in my readers. And also, I am too lazy to write a diatribe about it. So, here is the short, short version. My selection is narrowed to a living person, who conducts interviews, does research to support claims, and has authored a published work concerning their trade. Now, this limits the field severely while still opening the door to hundreds of persons making my decision easier. It also excludes anchors and pundits who do nothing more than talk (even if they do it well and honorably). In this way, I can assure myself that the choice will force me to seek depth and breadth in the individual which would lead to a holistically well rounded interview/discussion for my hypothetical meeting of the minds.

For me, the next step is to identify individuals that either challenge or inspire me or both. I also wanted to make sure that my selection was an individual that allowed their interviewee to speak for themselves and finish their thoughts before combating them on the statement. Obviously, this makes a FOX network appearance in my daydream highly unlikely. Although, I would enjoy trying to make Bill O’Reilly’s head swell to see if we could beat the Kool Aid man’s Guinness record for biggest red head. Oh yeah! But anyway, I wouldn’t like the situation, so that again narrows the field.

So now, I come to four individuals who fit my perfect bill thus far. Don Lemon, Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart, and Rachel Maddow round out my list of candidates for dream interviewer. From there, more cuts must be made. While I appreciate what Colbert does, his persona is not real and therefore would be a satirical encounter rather than a solid interview. So he goes first. Jon Stewart has an amazing way of weaving silliness into heavy subjects during his interviews but tends to get off track. While I love to be funny, and think that an interview with him would be my fame moment that rockets my career as a funny man, I only get one dream date. Sorry Jon, you don’t get a rose this week (I’ll never forget you…sniff, sniff).

Now, down to just Lemon and Maddow, I have to take a closer look at their qualifications. They both impress with their journalistic courage to seek answers to tough questions and take bold stands that may be unpopular. Both utilize fact checking and research to find answers and support claims. And while they both have a huge upside for the intelligent interviewee, I have to go with Rachel Maddow. And my reasoning is this: She is just so much fun to watch. Maddow has an electric energy that I find thoroughly enjoyable and would love to witness first hand. She is just so bright and witty and, well, nice. Aside from the fact that I have a huge amount of respect for the quality of work she does, I really think I would just like sitting and chatting with her even if it were for three minutes on a Wednesday night on MSNBC. I just think she’s swell.

So, after the very specific and academic approach to qualifying candidates, I fall back on the emotional reaction for guidance. And, as I said, it may not make sense at this point or bring greater clarity. Why didn’t you just go with your gut happy feeling to begin with? You already knew you felt that way about Rachel, so why didn’t you just settle it sooner?

Well, while that is indeed true, my point goes a little deeper. Sometimes we have to dig and do the boring dirty work of qualifying things to help figure them out. The questions and rules and processes may seem frivolous but what they accomplish is so important. Sometimes, this process is the very thing that allows us to make an emotional judgment wisely. It may be the tool that frees us to be a little silly and have a swell time while we do some harrowing tasks. And that is why I find Rachel Maddow to be brilliant. She does all that hard work, all of the qualifying and process and delivers it with charm, enjoyment, passion, and a human element. Others offer plenty of emotion but never go through the task of figuring out where it came from, why it’s there, or if they should even feel that way. Those pundits lead interviewees into traps, cyclical logic, and discussions that boil over but accomplish nothing. Maddow doesn’t do that. She knows why we should think and seek and learn first. And after all of the exhaustive effort and the discovery of so many saddening and maddening bits of information in our world, she still finds a way to smile. And that smile is real. It must be, because I am wearing one that she gave me right now. If it were fake, she would never have been able to share it. So I would pick her for my dream interviewer hands down, if only so I could say “thank you.”

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