Thursday, April 19, 2007

"How do you feel?"

As a budding journalist, I've often found it hard to ask people questions I know they don't want to hear. My skin has become a bit thicker, though, and I've found that it is my duty and it is for the greatest good that sometimes I make people squirm. Asking the correct questions of the correct people, though, is something that isn't always an easy thing to do.

Such has been the case in the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. Poynter Online's Kelly McBride raised some interesting questions about the media's behavior. As McBride stated, it was the correct thing to do to grill the university president and the administration and to ask questions of the police and other experts.
"But asking every student on campus and every John Doe on the street his or her opinion on whether the school should have been locked down is not watchdog journalism. It’s seeding doubt without evidence. It’s planting distrust in the authorities without any indication of malfeasance. It’s answering the question by asking it."

I completely agree with McBride in this critique. Asking questions of the students and parents that had just experienced a horrific event is not in the public's best interest. They could have just as well asked "How do you feel?" As if the journalist, and the public, don't already know the answer.

Asking the right questions of the right people may not always be an easy thing to do. In the case of the Virginia Tech massacre, I think some thought should be put into the types of questions that should be asked as well as who should be asked in horrific occurrences. The media need to serve as a watchdog, but also need to think of the greater good. "How do you feel?" just doesn't cut it for me.


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