Journalist-usurper. Based on press interviews
The article analyses the features of the modern journalist as a social person. For my detailed research subject I have chosen press interviews, which by definition are not agonistic. The analysed interviews were conducted by journalists with people other than front bench politicians. The interviewees included artists (actors, singers, musicians, dancers, opera singers), celebrities, media managers, writers, columnists, social activists, travellers, athletes, former politicians and less known current politicians, as well as current government ministers.
The aim of the article is to examine whether journalists conducting interviews do it in a way that makes the interview actually resemble a conversation which could take place in public. Do the interviews on a given topic conform to the Polish politeness standards, such as empathy, approval and kindness to the partner, respect for his or her sovereignty, including the principle of discretion? Do they follow the principle of subordination, typical of Polish politeness?
The interviews consist of questions which in the typology of interview questions are known as bombarding and probing questions.
The interviewer exerts decisive control over the conversation. In general, the interviewer causes the interviewees to feel highly tense, insecure (sometimes, it seems, even threatened), due to the unpredictability of the content of the next question, surprising conclusions drawn from the answers, indiscretion, not allowing the interviewee to continue answering, etc. The interviewer exerts pressure, e.g. by constantly negating and questioning the truthfulness, and purity of intentions, by mocking the interviewee, ridiculing him or her, using leading questions and tricky questions.
An analysis of the research material leads to the conclusion that the studied journalists do not have the manners that could create a sense of security in the interaction partner and would build community not only between the interlocutors, but — more importantly in the case of media activities — a community with the media audience. The interviews, which are intended to bring the interviewee closer to the readers, as a result move the interviewee even further away, because they fuel criticism and even contempt towards others in the readers, giving them a feeling of superiority similar to the one demonstrated by the journalist.
The analysed journalists hold power over their interviewees, and very often their power is that of a dictator, a tyrant, an oppressor. The journalists have no right to do that, neither professionally, nor ethically. The interviewee is frequently an innocent victim; innocent, because the aggression directed towards him or her has no reason.
The boundaries between a political and non-political interview are blurred, also due to the aggressiveness of the interviewer (and hostile attitude towards the interlocutor), which becomes a desired quality in every journalist. This might be due to peer pressure. Or perhaps journalists think that their readers expect such an attitude from the interviewees. As a result, however, the interview has hardly any cognitive value. Prepared to fight an enemy — an imaginary enemy, in fact — a journalist feels released from the obligation to really prepare for the interview, focusing instead on linguistic and technical measures that will allow him or her to become an object of admiration: how nicely he got at someone, how well she nailed someone down...