Why adversity demands tough questions

By · Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

not teaching,
still THINKING ..

Questions are the mainstay of journalists.

Mary Louise Kelly, a co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” explains that point well in a recent opinion piece published in The New York Times under the headline: Pompeo Called Me a ‘Liar.’ That’s Not What Bothers Me.

Kelly states:

Ask journalists why they do the job they do, and you’ll hear a range of answers. Here’s mine: Not every day, but on the best ones, we get to put questions to powerful people and hold them to account. This is both a privilege and a responsibility.

Kelly describes her one-on-one interviews this month with each of “the top diplomats of both the United States and Iran, in their respective capitals.” Each interview lasted 10 minutes.

The differences are stark between her interview first with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and then with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Kelly’s experience serves as a reminder to all journalists of three important points that she makes in her piece:

  1. Freedom of the press is “enshrined in the Constitution” for a reason
  2. People in power are “held to account” for a reason
  3. Journalists ask “tough questions, on behalf of our fellow citizens,” for a reason

Take a moment to read Kelly’s short, powerful piece about her two interviews, including her description of “Mr. Pompeo’s subsequently swearing at me, calling me a liar and challenging me to find Ukraine on an unmarked map.”

We are glad — according to the headline over her piece — that Kelly is not bothered by being called a liar. Journalists know they must be able to take whatever is thrown at them to get answers to the questions they ask.

These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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