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Political Interviews and Press Conferences Political Reporting (JN 513)

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1 Political Interviews and Press Conferences Political Reporting (JN 513)

2 Lecture Outline 1. Political Interviews – Structure and Style 2. Press Conferences 3. Seminar Exercise - Cameron on Andrew Marr analysis

3 Political Interviews Broadcast Interviews are staple of journalistic output because they are cheap to produce, foreground individuals and work to ‘ embody ’ issues and facilitate dramatic effect, and enhance newsworthiness. Interviews are opportunities for politicians to explain and justify policies and for journalists to exercise sustained scrutiny of politicians.

4 Political Interviews News media interview - a complicated communicative encounter. Simplicity of an interpersonal discussion belies generic strictures of the interview format as well as the crucial impact of a third party, the audience/public. Interview talk is informed by its public orientation: a political current affairs interview, negotiates the respective registers of political and everyday discourse. An important feature of news media interviews is the ‘conversationalisation ’ of public discussion, where formal, institutional media talk seeks alignment with the colloquial, everyday discourse of ‘the people ’.

5 Political Interviews The ‘ live ’ appearance of interviews highlights their unpredictable status, however highly conventionalised the encounter may be. =1j12VvolRMs =1j12VvolRMs The interrogative and personal communicative form of interviews can seem to elevate their ‘ truth ’ status.

6 Political Interviews Interviews are characterised by relative performative restraint but they are also embodied and performative events. =3YR4CseY9pk =3YR4CseY9pk

7 Political Interviews In political interviews journalists negotiate contradiction of being objective while also critical and subjective through their questions by acting as the public ’ s representative. They are described as ‘honest brokers ’ : o … ’ honest brokers ’ remain neutral in that they allow equal access to the plurality of views that exist in modern society, but they are partial in that they take the side of the viewers, the ‘ordinary people ’, the ‘voters ’, the ‘ consumers ’, the ‘ citizens ’, and in doing so they take up a more active, more investigative and more interrogative role (Bell and van Leeuwen 1994, p. 134).

8 Political Interviews Interviews are important sites where leadership style and rhetorical skill are publicly displayed. In 2013 David Cameron initiated a reshuffle that involved minister Chloe Smith. It was widely reported that Smith’s demotion was partly associated with a disastrous interview that she conducted with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. atch?v=bddWaHuxTzc atch?v=bddWaHuxTzc

9 Political Interviews Clear cut roles for interviewers and interviewees. Interviewer has control over the mechanics of an interview – they start it, end it, interrupt answers. The interviewee can give non-supportive answers but they must recognise the authority of the interviewer. Types of questions – ‘ wh ’ questions, ‘ polar ’ questions, statements. Degrees of openness with varying degrees of challenge to the interviewee. All questions however offer information, framing an issue in a particular way.

10 Political Interviews Interviews are struggles over the site of meaning. They are presented as open opportunities for a politician to have his/her say but the relationship is not equal – the interview is open to oppositional viewpoints but they are confronted with a set agenda and have to at least acknowledge the authority of the interviewer.

11 Political Interviews Are political interviews an instance of dialogue? Ideal dialogues characterised by equal status between participants, equal rights to speak, reciprocity, equal contributions and desire for common ground. Political interviews are institutional dialogues – more goal oriented, obvious status differentials between participants, unequal access to information and knowledge, unequal degrees of participation.

12 Press Conferences Wide variety of press conferences. They may be used in conventional way to announce new political programmes and decisions. They are also used to convey information directly to public – deaths/accidents, crises, etc. Press conferences dealing with national politics often air and deal with controversial topics but joint diplomatic press conferences will not highlight differences but promote common ground. Press conferences can be characterised by extended duration – not ‘doorstops’.

13 Press Conferences Types of press conferences: Routine – predictable timing, conduct and value; Culmination – signals the end to a negotiation process, meeting or summit; Newsworthy – crisis events; Stocktaking – precise timing does not greatly matter. (Seymour-Ure 2003, p. 176)

14 Press Conferences Kennedy was first to use press conferences as media spectacle. Blair used press conferences to bring him in touch with the media, directly showing off his skills as a performer and to repair relationships damaged by political advisers and spin doctors. Cameron has been reticent to hold press conferences: monthly-press-conferences monthly-press-conferences

15 Press Conferences Dynamics between journalists and politicians change in press conferences compared with interviews. Politicians have greater control over timing and length of conference, and who asks questions. Press conferences less likely if government is unpopular or if fighting off crisis. But press conferences can also be used as proactive political strategy: marathon-press-conference-slater-gordon.html marathon-press-conference-slater-gordon.html

16 Press Conferences While press conferences are more strictly controlled journalists can still force politicians to confess what they do not wish to disclose: Press conferences are also media/public events where the ‘unpredictable’ can sometimes happen:

17 Seminar Exercise David Cameron on The Andrew Marr Show – July om/watch?v=fFvlkW- ZAoc om/watch?v=fFvlkW- ZAoc

18 Seminar Exercise 1. Outline the struggles that occur between Marr and Cameron in the interview questions and answers. 2. Can you identify how Marr and Cameron frame politics in different ways in the interview? 3. How is Cameron presenting a particular kind of political habitus or subjectivity (personality, different life roles, personal values, etc.) in the interview? 4. Any other features of interest from the interview?

19 References Bell, P. and van Leeuwen, T. (1994) “Political Interviews: The Adversarial Genre.” The Media Interview: Confession, Contest, Conversation. Sydney: UNSW Press. Craig, G. (2013), ‘How does a Prime Minister Speak? Kevin Rudd’s discourse, habitus and negotiation of the journalistic and political fields’, Journal of Language and Politics, vol.12, no. 4, pp Craig, G. (2010) Dialogue and Dissemination in News Media Interviews. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism. 11 (1) Seymour-Ure, C. (2003) “Prime Ministers and Press Conferences.” Prime Ministers and the Media: Issues of Power and Control. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp


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