Ain’t love — between a reporter and her interview subject — grand?
Try grandstanding. Wrong? If not off the charts, it’s hanging on by a pinkie.
That reporters maintain an objective distance from interview subjects is Journalism 101, but didn’t apply at KSNV-TV, Channel 3 when entertainment maven Alicia Jacobs was allowed a two-part sit-down with rocker boyfriend/fella/lover (take your pick) Vince Neil, released from jail after serving 10 days for DUI.
“We had an extensive conversation about it,” says News-3 news chief Bob Stoldal. “At a bare minimum, you have to declare out front you have a relationship with this guy.”
Always true. Only partially fulfilled here. Jacobs disclosed it before the interviews, but the day she reported his release to home confinement, that tidbit went AWOL. Kudos to Jacobs for (gently) quizzing Neil about driving drunk, including a 1984 DUI that left a passenger dead, for which he served 15 days in jail. She neglected to mention that two survivors were left brain-damaged.
“I don’t think it would add any weight to say two people were injured,” Stoldal says. “A death of a human being, how much more do you need for the question to be impactful?” Two more victims seriously injured is not an insignificant fact.
No “softball questions,” Stoldal insisted. What about Jacobs’ softball silence, as with Neil’s contradictory statements over his 1984 case? First: “(I) paid an enormous amount of money: two and a half million. I would’ve gone to prison if I didn’t.” Then: “A lot of people say I bought my way out. It’s not really true.” No? Didn’t he admit it before he denied it? Might another interviewer not sweet on her interviewee have challenged him, rather than leave viewers with a dangling question? Wasn’t there time?
“This was a minute-and-a-half- to two-minute interview,” Stoldal says. Actually, the first installment was 4:06, the second even longer at 4:44, clocking in at just under nine minutes total.
“How do you know the reporter didn’t follow up?” Stoldal says. “Something is going to be on the cutting room floor.” What good does it do viewers there, Bob? “We could have edited the contradiction out, but we didn’t,” he adds. “The audience was able to say, ‘Here’s this guy who says X, then he says Y.’ ” Yet viewers got no satisfaction reconciling them as Jacobs didn’t bother — or wasn’t shown — asking. Should News-3 invite viewers to search the cutting room floor?
■ Jacobs asked Neil why he selected her as his interviewer: “You’re a good journalist and my girl.” Reporters leave it to interviewees to justify their standards?
■ Faking reporter curiosity insults our intelligence. Does anyone believe she didn’t know his answers before asking her questions? That robs an interview of spontaneity — a dog-and-pony show.
■ Especially stagey: Jacobs touring his home as if seeing it for the first time.
■ Had another News-3 reporter been assigned, would Neil have spoken to another station instead? There was zero chance of News-3 losing the exclusive regardless of the reporter given the job.
Journalists interviewing their lovers: What would Edward R. Murrow say? Too grandiose a comparison for a mere entertainment reporter? Fine.
What would Mary Hart say?
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256.