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100 articles – ‘NFL on FOX: O’Reilly interviews Obama’

An exchange between President Obama and Fox News's Bill O'Reilly has been selected by Renee Tibbs to join our '100 articles' list as an example of how NOT to conduct an interview.

‘NFL on FOX: O’Reilly interviews Obama’ – broadcast on Fox News

In February 2011, Fox News political commentator Bill O’Reilly interviewed President Barack Obama just prior to Super Bowl kick-off. 

The interview lasts for 15 minutes, during which time O’Reilly interrupts the president a total of 22 times, with an average of 26 seconds given for each answer. Often O’Reilly cuts off Obama less than ten seconds into an answer. He also asks some highly emotive questions (‘how does it feel to know you are hated?’) and frequently interrupts Obama with opinionated statements (‘a lot of Americans feel you [want] to intrude on their personal freedom’).

Journalists: this is an illuminating primer on how not to conduct an interview. O’Reilly’s domination and aggressiveness means that Obama cannot answer a single question properly, when he should have the right to speak fully and freely.

Precisely what constitutes ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ interviewing techniques is a subjective issue to a certain degree, but that is beside the point. The important question a journalist needs to ask here is whether it’s really appropriate to limit the president to mere 26-second responses on important and controversial topical issues?

Of course it isn’t.  By denying Obama the right to answer, O’Reilly denies the viewer the right to hear that answer – and that is not an interview at all.

Renee Tibbs is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University and is a former editor of upstart. Her blog is called duck down the alleyway.

Want to contribute to our list of the 100 articles every journalist should read about journalism? Full details here.

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