Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A new line in political interviewing

One line in the Decca Aitkenhead interview with Zac (or Frank) Goldsmith intrigued me yesterday - and was a cause for a little concern.

Zac is, of course, another one of that coven of well-educated scions of wealth - he's got £300 million kicking around in his inheritance fund - and he's decided that he wants to have a go at politics and naturally feels drawn towards the Conservatives. So far, so normal. The curious paragraph is actually omitted from the internet version. She's just plugging his new book and adds that
Presumably he hopes that it will generate more interest than the longstanding rumours of extra-marital indiscretions involving a young Rothschild - the sister of his sister-in-law - a subject about which I am expressly forbidden to ask.
It is that last phrase that bothers me - 'forbidden to ask'. I can quite understand that Zac wouldn't want that personal dirty washing laundered in public and I can certainly agree that it probably isn't relevant to the campaign, but I am a little concerned about a journalist, providing free coverage across four pages in a serious newspaper (and one that should sell well amongst the target voters of Richmond Park) is limited in what she can ask.

Limiting interviews is universal amongst celebrities - they will be called upon to publicise their latest film or a book that they've had written for them, but the cringing interviewers will be given a stern talking to in advance by a PR person who will explain the precise limits of the interview. Should the journalist attempt to stray off-piste - perhaps by discussing the celeb's drink/drugs hell, then the interview will be terminated forthwith and that journalist faces being banned from other future engagements with the artiste and potentially a kicking from his or her editor. There are rules of engagement with celebrities, you see - and it is to Decca Aitkenhead's credit that she explains the imposed limit in this case, because we usually aren't told about the terms and conditions.

But that's for celebs, not for those who purport to be serious politicians. I don't think that politicians have the same rights to 'forbid' discussion in advance, because I wonder where it might stop. While it is not unreasonable to say that his marital situation is a private matter, what might be the next subject to be put on the banned list? Surely it is the job of the good journalist to ask those questions that the politician would rather were not asked?

Hell, maybe I'm just too naiive.

1 comment:

alunephraim said...

Think it should be "new low" not "new line".