The absurdity of field kamikaze journalists

Chew Toy McCoy

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I don't even know if that's a term. I made it up. This isn't anything new but I've been noticing this on investigative documentaries and in the news a lot lately. In the history of journalists corning somebody with a mic and saying something like "Sir, why did you kill your wife?" or "Why is your company dumping carcinogens into the drinking water?" has the person ever responded with anything like "You know, glad you just showed up while I was on my way to do something. How about I skip that and we'll go grab some coffee and chat about that profound question that only you have been insightful enough to ask. I can tell you're really sincere and open minded and you just made my day."?

I'm going to say no, but yet they keep doing it over and over. I also imagine shortly after that bombshell moment that never happens the journalist and camera crew high five each other and go "Nice one, Doug!", "I know, right? Hard hitting news at it's finest. I hope we got that non answer on tape so I can submit it for an Emmy."

Sad.
 

P_X

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I don't even know if that's a term. I made it up. This isn't anything new but I've been noticing this on investigative documentaries and in the news a lot lately. In the history of journalists corning somebody with a mic and saying something like "Sir, why did you kill your wife?" or "Why is your company dumping carcinogens into the drinking water?" has the person ever responded with anything like "You know, glad you just showed up while I was on my way to do something. How about I skip that and we'll go grab some coffee and chat about that profound question that only you have been insightful enough to ask. I can tell you're really sincere and open minded and you just made my day."?

I'm going to say no, but yet they keep doing it over and over. I also imagine shortly after that bombshell moment that never happens the journalist and camera crew high five each other and go "Nice one, Doug!", "I know, right? Hard hitting news at it's finest. I hope we got that non answer on tape so I can submit it for an Emmy."

Sad.
It's a funny and very old phenomenon. When I was a kid in the 90s it was already a thing and seemed shockingly stupid. Better yet, there are people who grab every opportunity of the limelight and start singing in exchange for attention and some money (this before social media, these people would want to be "influencers" today). Example coming to mind is the case of Caylee Anthony's death Media coverage.

In practice I think they do this so they can claim they have given an opportunity to XY to respond to Z accusation.
 

Chew Toy McCoy

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It's a funny and very old phenomenon. When I was a kid in the 90s it was already a thing and seemed shockingly stupid. Better yet, there are people who grab every opportunity of the limelight and start singing in exchange for attention and some money (this before social media, these people would want to be "influencers" today). Example coming to mind is the case of Caylee Anthony's death Media coverage.

In practice I think they do this so they can claim they have given an opportunity to XY to respond to Z accusation.


What ultimately inspired me to post this was watching the recent documentary Seaspiracy, which all I will say about that here is watch it if you thought Black Fish was the feel good movie of the year and lacked any kind of real negative analysis of ocean life exploitation.

Not far behind video bombing a target with questions they are never going to answer in a definitive sound byte is taking your camera to places where cameras are prohibited just so you can get footage of them telling you to turn the camera off while the reporter attempts some derivative "But why?" cyclical argument that a 5-year-old would think is clever because their brain isn't fully developed yet.
 

hulugu

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@hulugu may have some insight to this though.

I have mixed feelings about this tactic. It's a chimera of good practice—if your source is ignoring you, go chase them down and make them answer questions—and a bad idea, if occasionally good for ratings.

No one thinks they're going to get what I like to call the "code red" answer. "You're goddamned right, I did!" But, getting video of a person flipping out, hiding themselves, or fleeing silently has always been a good way to show what us print nerds do—the source refused to comment.

It's good practice because it shows that the outlet gave the subject an opportunity to talk, and the response may be illuminating. On the other hand, it's often a cynical ploy because it's rarely going to get context.

See also photo sprays, and perp walks.

I don't know about the documentary—which seems to have its own problems—but lots of people try to get a source to interview, and that last "kamikaze" run is the last chance to strike a ship. But, we've been trying to hit that thing for weeks, if not months. However, some outlets just decide on that tactic, and I think that's unfair.
 
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Scepticalscribe

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It is a certain type of young male, shock-jock journalism, where the story is the size of the journalist's outrage (and ego), - the story is about the journalist and the journalist's reaction to what has happened - rather than serious (investigative, or interrogative, coverage, which takes time, thinking, work, resources, research) coverage of whatever crime, transgression or error has been committed by the person being interviewed or door-stepped.

While it once had its use - as a corrective, overdue and welcome shock - in a world of excessive deference to those holding unaccountable political power or other forms of unearned wealth, privilege and position, nowadays, in a time of limited attention spans and 24 hour news ccycles, I see it as an excuse not to have to do serious investigative & thoughtful journalism by focussing on capturing screaming headlines, instead.
 
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