Sunday, April 08, 2007

Couric And The Edwardses: Pluses And Minuses On Both Sides
By Leigh Baker

Katie Couric’s ‘60 Minutes’ interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards was, overall, a well-conducted performance. There are critiques and feedback that can be given to both the interviewer and the interviewees that pronounce how well each party managed their opposing ends.

Katie Couric’s initial approach to the assignment was well handled. She simply asked Elizabeth Edwards how she was feeling. This is an important step because it establishes a level of comfort with the interviewee, which is especially imperative when dealing with matters such as cancer and death.

Next, her questions were relevant to the questions on the minds of many Americans, especially those who follow and support the Edwards campaign. How the Edwardses responded will be addressed later.

However, the way in which she asked these questions made the Edwardses look almost immoral with their decision to continue in the race for the democratic nomination. For example, Couric says, “Some people watching this would say, ‘I would put my family first always, and my job second.’ And you're doing the exact opposite. You're putting your work first, and your family second.”

In wording her question like this, she has compared these two individuals to the American population, and has assumed that most people would act differently. Furthermore, she uses the phrase, “exact opposite,” which implies that they are on the opposing side of the American public. It’s true that morality tells us to put family first, but she is distinctly placing them on the opposite end of the spectrum when they may not see their decision in this light.

Contrastingly, the couch that the Edwardses occupied seemed an uncomfortable one. They were firm in their answers, but these responses seemed rehearsed. I suppose that it is natural for a politician to prepare for any and all questions that may arise, but it seemed slightly dishonest.

Next, many of their responses seemed very roundabout. Generic answers are stereotypically considered a politician’s forte, but by responding like this, they didn’t quite tackle the questions being asked of them. Also, answers like this make it tough to conduct a solid interview because one must distinguish each question to receive the level of specificity needed. In other words, the questions may seem redundant, when in fact, the responses are.

Finally, one of the larger issues in the interview was whether or not the family is in denial of the seriousness of Elizabeth Edwards’s illness, and whether or not this denial would abate at a later date, possibly when it is too late. The response given by Elizabeth Edwards began with a stutter and concluded with a statement of optimism. Edwards’s reply was one that implied strictly, “no, we are not in denial,” and continued with Elizabeth’s theme of optimism.

In some cases, this premise of “optimism and strength” that they speak of continually could be confused for denial. It is not clear whether they are actually rejecting the possible thought of death within their own minds, but both reactions were neither confirming nor refuting the idea.

The questions were asked, and the answers given, just as should be done in any interview, but both parties had errors and triumphs.

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