Anne Summers begs the ABC to retain a program that is losing its viewers. Fears for the future in 7.30 Report-land.
We are apparently waiting for the Queen to die so we can finally bury Australia's redundant links to the empty glitter of royalty. The same should be true of Kerry O'Brien's departure from the 7.30 report. It is a tired old format that adds little. I rarely watch it now, though I used to find it essential.
Of course, there is a market for this stuff with people who see politics as a form of entertainment. Just as there is a market for the ABC's other political versions of light entertainment - Insiders and Q & A. What all these shows have in common is the idea of politics as combat. A bit like professional wrestling, lots of grunting and groaning - most of it exaggerated for effect.
Anne Summers lauds the 'tough' political interviewing style of O'Brien and others. It had it's day, but its over. Toughness too often just means rudeness, where the interviewer treats the prime minister (or some other public figure / victim) with smirking condescension.
For the growing, but thankfully still small, numbers who follow this stuff on Twitter, like so many old ladies knitting by the guillotine, the 'tough' interview has its appeal. As do football matches, "give it to him Kerry, yay".
There's no need to be rude to be effective and important. The best interviews elicit information and let you decide. I know this sounds like an ad for FOX but I have in mind programs like Conversation Hour, Late Night Live, Australian Story, Talking Heads on the ABC. I also listen to podcasts of similar programs from overseas like the BBC's Analysis, Thinking Allowed and In Our Time. And from NPR, "This American Life".
I love these programs, you come away feeling informed and like you've had a good chat, not a bar room slanging match. Of course, they don't lend themselves to the chaos of a Twitter feed - you just sit there and focus on the program (gosh). These programs also ask you to think, reflect and empathise. The tough interviews encourage people to jeer when their side is copping it and to cheer when their opponents get it in the neck. (Don't believe me - follow the twitter feed for the 7.30 report or Q and A).
When you hear a journalist say they must be getting it right because they cop abuse from both sides you know they've left journalism behind and opted for entertainment.
Real journalism has people thankful for the information and insights. Tough interviews are celebrated for the moments when the interviewer poised like a matador plunges his lance into a hapless pollie. GOTCHA!
Thanks for the memories, 7.30 report. The ABC is right to take the opportunity of O'Brien's departure to rework a tired, dying format.