"Come on. Dish the dirt."
NPR had the decency to call Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli about what's going on in Iraq, so that he would counter another story about Iraqis worried about more violence. Chriarelli is generally upbeat, telling NPR that that the supply lines are getting more secure, American forces are able to become less visible, the Iraqi Army is performing well and understands its role in a Democracy, and the Army is turning its attention to the police forces. What's so fascinating about the interview is the interviewer's (and I don't know which NPR personality it is) frantic effort to catch Chiarelli on some dirt. It reminded me of a cross-examination, where the lawyer essentially testifies through the questions he asks. Here's the deal: direct questions are open-ended. They'd be questions such as "How is the situation?" "What are you doing to address security concerns?" A cross-examination question is meant to contain within it the answer you seek, confining the witness to yes or no answers: "Isn't the situation disastrous?" "You're unable to address security concerns, aren't you?" "Sectarian violence has gotten out of your control, hasn't it?" (These aren't questions from the NPR story, but they match the tone.) This technique, of course, puts both the interrogator's and the witness's credibility on the line in a trial. It was always my understanding -- color me naive -- that good reporting at least started with open-ended, direct questions. That is, true reporting is a way of learning, and disseminating news, not trying to obtain someone's conviction. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to find that kind of reporting notably absent here.