Citizen journalism: how NOT to do it

MSNBC news anchor Contessa Brewer is a trained broadcast journalist who has provided both professional and citizen journalists with a lesson on how NOT to conduct an on-air interview.

It all happened in a recent live conversation about the debt ceiling debate she had with US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL). Instead of persisting with serious journalistic questions she mistakenly entered into an argument with Rep. Brooks that ended up embarrassing her in front of whatever tiny audience her cable network had. The most humiliating part of the interview went like this:

“Journalist” Brewer:  “You’re simplifying the issues that were on the plate of the nation at that point. I mean we were looking at going – averting a Depression at that point, everyone the Fed chairman . . .”

Rep. Brooks:  “Well I disagree that we were going into a Depression, but go ahead.”

“Journalist” Brewer:  “Do you have a degree in economics?”

Rep. Brooks:  “Yes Ma’am I do, highest honors.”

She made two mistakes: First of all she did not do her background research to effectively know her guest before the lights were on and the microphones hot. Second, she debated Rep. Brooks rather than query him.

Had she done her background study she would have known that Rep. Brooks graduated from Duke University in three years with a double major in political science and economics, with highest honors in economics. Had she known that do you think she would have asked in incredulous tone, “Do you have a degree in economics?”

Me either.

Her journalism degree should have prepared her to ask good questions and do proper background research. For sure, it did not prepare her to debate someone who earned a degree in economics “with highest honors.”

“Oooops” is the kindest thing I have to say about journalist Brewer, and thanks for the lesson on how not to conduct an interview.