Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The tables got turned

I was interviewed by Yle, Finland's national public service broadcasting company, today. They're doing a feature on instant messaging, that I did a study on about a year ago, and my role was to cast light on the phenomena as a researcher.

It was very awkward in two ways. Firstly, I work as a reporter at a newspaper. It's my job to ring people up and ask for a well-founded opinion at once and to ask them to hand in a simple solution to whatever problem or conflict I write about. But I've never had the tables turned. I've never been interviewed by a newspaper or tv. (Al though I did do an outstanding role in a tv-drama on youth and alcohol, made by the local tv-crew in my home village back in the 80's, but that doesn't count here.)

And what happens? I find myself becoming the difficult interviewee, the one that many journalists dread. I demand to know the plot of the feature, what questions will I be asked and point out several times that this and that needs to be emphasized. I was going to demand to see it before it airs, as I'm entitled to, but I forgot.

I guess, and hope, I posed these questions because I know that so much is simplified and generalized in media today. And I don't feel up to making broad statements concerning my research on instant messaging. I was actually planning on giving long answers to make sure that the risk of misunderstanding is as small as possible. But once the reporter removed the microphone from my face, he complemented me for being so brief and concise... Darn it! Occupational injury, or bad habit, I guess. I know the meaning of mediasexy. But it will be interesting to see how the programme turns out. I often wonder how the persons I interview feel about the published article. Do they recognize themselves at all, and did I get all the facts al right? I know some have doubted that we attented the same get-together...

The second issue that made me feel awkward is the medium itself. I was just talking the other day with a friend of mine about the hype of tv. It seems like many would do anything to get to be on the telly. They join reality tv-shows and the like. Visuality is everything, if you've been in the paper of tons better, on tv, you count. I would never ever join Big Brother or any other "voyeristic drama" in the genre. I doubt there's a sum that big that would make me break this promise. And my drive for recognition and fame is not that great.

While writing, a third thing comes to mind regarding why I was a bit nervous on being asked questions and supposed to serve intelligent answers straight up. I know by experience that many believe absolutely everything that's written in the paper. I figure perhaps it's the same thing with tv. Perhaps people think I'm proclaiming some sort of absolute truth. This is not how I want to appear. People can be mistaken, and so can the messanger (the reporter).

I miss a "discussion" outlook, where the media consumer says "Hey, that's one way of looking at it" and develops the thought, contributes with opinions, filling out the blanks and correcting what's wrong. I guess I'm looking for a joint reporting where the readers could contribute to the news as no reporter knows exactly everything, neither does the persons interviewed. And this is where the blog comes in. It'd be great to have a blog run alongside the news making a news reporting at a newspaper.

I hope I'm not coming across as a tired journalist who's looking to deny the responsability to report objectively and correctly. That's not my point. I just feel that one should think independently, and not uncritically accept everything that floats around in the media.

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