Howard Kurtz considers columnist Thomas Friedman’s foray into news television, and the results are revealing. Here are two moments I found particularly interesting:
“One thing about being a columnist is you get to talk to a lot of people off the record because you don’t really need any quotes,” [Friedman] says. “That means a higher percentage of the time, people will tell you the truth. The thing that was so hard in doing this is getting people to tell you the truth on camera — about an incredibly sensitive subject.”
This quote reveals how a medium affects not only the type of material that may be presented but also how that material may be gathered and its quality. A TV camera and microphone are not a neutral instruments. Reporters must gather that which the camera and microphone make possible. And they must deal with the subject’s interpretive reaction to those information-gathering devices. In other words, a print reporter and a TV reporter cannot cover the same story the same way. They cannot get the same information.
Friedman hardly needs more outlets to tell the world what he thinks. He’s won three Pulitzer Prizes, writes best-selling books and appears on such programs as “Face the Nation.” But he was drawn to using television to capture the anger and frustration of the Arab world.
Portraying anger may certainly be accomplished in print. But how much more pathos might we portray in moving images and pictures? We then must consider how this pathos plays into Friedman’s (rhetorical) intentions.
Friedman’s program will air on Discovery on 26 March at 10 p.m.