Posted at 11:59 AM on October 13, 2008
by Jeff Horwich
Well, didn't take long for us to get our first angry feedback over our interview with Gus Booth, the Warroad pastor who is challenging the IRS by endorsing John McCain from his pulpit. The first personal email arrived in my inbox on Friday before the show was even off the air:
Your interview with the Warroad pastor was putrid. Maybe thought you were being cute or funny, but what you managed to do was to give this misguided freak a dandy pulpit to preach at us, unchallenged. The obvious question for this loon, which I can't believe you don't know, is "How is the church losing tax exempt status an infringement on your free speech???"...(etc.)
(I'm conveying all these comments anonymously to protect everyone's identities.)
Here's another that was waiting for me this morning:
Goodness, Jeff! Once again you let your interviewees get away with murder. Would it have killed you to point out to your McCain-loving pastor...that he is free to give his opinion anywhere, and he is even free to endorse a candidate from the pulpit...he just can't expect to avoid paying taxes like any other entity. It wouldn't have taken much... please make an effort once in a while to do more than listen... interviews should be a two-way street.
It's not a stretch to believe that there are many listeners whose seething distaste for what Pastor Booth has to say is so strong, it's hard to see past that to the balanced interview we actually conducted. From that perspective, the only "fair" interview might have been one in which we dragged him through the mud and didn't let him get a word in.
Friendly yet skeptical, probing yet fair: That's more our style. Here's a guy who was shaping the news; it's our job to help listeners understand where he's coming from and engage him in a legitimate conversation, not shout him down. Shouting down (and restating obvious, dead-end points just for effect, as the folks above suggest) makes for a very poor interview.
Oh, and here are some other reactions to the segment:
* Best (show) so far... I love the pastor interview: it's a valid question. "You've added them all up?" / "Yup." / Dead air. Awesome radio.
* Wife and I cheered you on asking the pastor "for the math" - fabulous!
* I am listening (at this moment) to your broadcast from this week - fabulous!!...Best line so far: "do you have the math handy?"
I guess people dug the math question.
Allow me to paraphrase some of the other lines of inquiry from this "putrid" interview where we apparently rolled over:
* "What makes you think you've got the inside track on what God thinks about politics?"
* "Didn't Jesus say a whole mess of things that might just as well lead people to vote for a Democrat?"
* "How does your own congregation feel about you telling them how to vote?"
* "This question has been litigated before, and the churches lost. Why would this time be any different?"
Golly, what a bunch of softballs! And this is just from the four minutes of the interview that made it to air.
Thing is, we asked tough questions without alienating, belittling, or minimizing our guest. That's as it should be, and always will be, as long as I'm behind the mic.
If you haven't heard the interview in question, here's the latest episode. Just press play and move the audio player needle to about 5:00 into the show.
This kind of give-and-take is exactly what makes the "In the Loop" style of reporting awesome: listener feedback shapes the show in a real way, then there's post-show exchanges like these. The very fact that this show receives that kind of feedback, and is now responding its audience through this blog post, says a lot about the fundamentally unique and engaging nature of "In the Loop"'s style of programming.
Keep up the good work.