The CBC’s Carol Off calls out Conrad Black for appearing to forget how to conduct an interview
By now, pretty much everyone agrees that Conrad Black’s softball interview with Rob Ford was bad—except for Rob Ford himself, which makes the situation all the more worrying. Part of the problem was that his Lordship missed just about every opportunity to ask pertinent follow-up questions of the sort they teach you on the first day of journalism school. Follow-up questions are doubly important when the interview subject admits right off the bat that he or she has a tendency to lie about things, as Ford did.
One of the more egregious examples was when Ford made the completely unfounded assertion that the police chief Blair is motivated by a political agenda that could take down the mayor. Here, one would expect the interviewer to ask something along the lines of, “What makes you say that?” If that’s too difficult, a simple “huh?” would have done the trick.
It’s for this reason that Black deserved to get called out for the botched interview, and he did yesterday when he was interviewed on CBC’s As it Happens. He got called out hard.
Over the course of 18 minutes, host Carol Off grilled and schooled Black about the basics of journalistic integrity, something a former newspaper baron should know a thing or two about. She asked him why he accepted the some of the mayor’s serious allegations at face value (“I was taking the mayor’s word for it,” Black responded). She asked him why no effort was made to verify the accuracy of Ford’s statements, even though there were three days between when the interview was taped and when it aired (“You’ll have to put that to the people who edit. I just put the questions”). She asked him why he didn’t press the mayor about his sketchbag friends (“I’d just be flogging a dead horse”).
Possibly the best moment was when—after clarifying that Black is well-versed in defamation law—Off asked him, “Is it not the responsibility of those who are doing journalism, putting things on the air, to know that the things that are put on are accurate?” To which Black responded, “Um,” followed by an uncomfortably long silence, followed by a mumbled admission that members of the media should act responsibly when conducting interviews about things that could affect reputations. “I don’t think I’ve varied from that at all,” Black said. The Star‘s Daniel Dale, whose reputation the mayor impugned on Black’s watch, might disagree.
Conrad Black is known for a lot of things, but being at a loss for words is not one of them. To experience this rare moment, go listen to the full interview. It’s well worth it.