October 2, 2008
Posted: 02:19 PM ET
What is “gotcha” journalism?
I keep hearing this term used on the campaign trail, and I wonder what people mean by it. As a journalist I believe my job is to ask tough questions. But apparently, if they are too tough, or the person just doesn’t know the answer, or the answer is the wrong answer, the person can claim a case of “gotcha” journalism. I guess once someone claims the reporter was out to “getcha” then the focus becomes the horrible, unethical, and mud-slinging reporter, and not the candidate.
Here is the exchange:
Boudreau: “When Gov. Palin is talking about the bridge to nowhere, we are thinking, she killed that bridge. But everyone locally is telling us there has always been two bridges. I mean, it’s always been referred to as the two bridges to nowhere here.”
Stapleton: “I think the media coined the bridge to nowhere.”
Boudreau: “Congress coined it.”
Stapleton: “No, the media coined the whole bridge to nowhere, and the whole focus on the bridge, has been the Gravina Island Bridge.”
Before we get to the alleged “gotcha” moment, let me give you a few details about these two bridges.
One was the Gravina Island Bridge that would connect residents in Ketchikan, to their neighboring island, where the airport is located.
The other bridge, would connect Anchorage, to Point MacKenzie, population 269, an outlying community of Wasilla, the governor’s home town.
Both of these bridges were coined “bridges to nowhere” during Congressional debates after a public outcry that the bridges symbolized wasteful government spending.
Gov. Palin killed the planned Ketchikan bridge. And she has been very vocal about how she redirected the funding for that bridge, claiming she told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
But Gov. Palin seems to have left out the fact that she continues to support the other bridge. I asked Meg Stapleton why the Governor chose to leave that little detail out of her stump speech. Here is Stapleton’s response:
Stapleton: “The national media may just be learning about it, but she has said this. The national media has focused on one [bridge] because it was perhaps the easiest one to talk about.
Boudreau: “It’s the one she continues to talk about.”
Stapleton: “It’s the one that Ketchikan residents have brought up because they felt it was sorta a gotcha moment.”
Aha. The “gotcha” moment. So here’s my question: Where is the line between a tough, but fair question, and “gotcha” journalism? And, have journalists crossed the line in questioning Gov. Palin and her record?
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