Erickson v. Gillis

So a few weeks back, on a sunny Byward Market patio, a friend from j-school recounted for me a notable interview on Sun TV. He was not at all impressed, but in honesty I thought it might have been the second pint talking, at least a little bit. His main point of contention was interviewer Krista Erickson’s use of the example of Canada’s troops in Afghanistan to challenge world-renowned dancer Margie Gillis on a statement she made about Canadian society losing its compassion.

Today, I finally got around to watching the interview… and I suggest you do too. It’s 20 minutes long, but the time will fly by since you’ll spend most of it trying to scrape your jaw up off the desk.

Let’s be clear – my problem with this interview has nothing to do with the politics of Krista Erickson’s questions. I haven’t done my own research on the issue, and it’s not my place to make a statement on the content (not that anyone would care about my opinion here anyway).

My problem is that, in some circles, interviews like this pass as “journalism”. Erickson’s questions are not designed to promote understanding or clarify the debate, they are questions intended to attack and belittle. I have no problem with holding interviewees to account, with challenging them, with asking them to defend or support their actions and choices. But there is a way to challenge an interviewee with class and dignity — journalists like Evan Solomon do it every day. In this interview, a false friendliness rapidly gives way to a complete lack of any manners. Erickson disparages Gillis’s life work, and then in the same breath she patronizes Gillis with fake compliments. I won’t call it any rude words, but I will say that is it not journalism.

The CRTC has already received more than 4,000 complaints about the “interview”. The class with which Gillis handles herself speaks volumes in juxtaposition to Erickson’s conduct; it’s almost the most telling element of the entire episode.

I know Sun TV is trying to provide an alternate perspective, and I can admire that in principle. But it’s hard to take this kind of approach seriously.


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