McCain "Twitterview" not a journalistic high point

ABC's George Stephanopoulos interview with Sen. John McCain, while, an interesting experiment, was far from a high point for either journalism or politcs

ABC's George Stephanopoulos is an excellent reporter and Senator John McCain has given some great interviews. But while yesterday's " twitterview " may have been a watershed moment for Twitter, it was far from a high point for either journalism or politics.

After reading a transcript of the interview, I have to question whether the 140 character format makes any sense as an interview technique, especially when dealing with life and death questions such as "What worries you more: Pakistan or Iran?" to which Senator McCain responded, "Both. The challenges are different but both significant."

Senator John McCain mccain.senate.gov

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a little more depth in my interviews. While brevity has its place, I found both the questions and the answers to be artificially short thanks to the limit of 140 characters per "tweet."

In an age where we get much of our political information from sound bites and commercials, I appreciate the tradition of a well-seasoned journalist sitting down with a politician to ask in-depth questions, get candid responses and be able to ask equally in-depth follow-up questions. In most cases, in person or at least telephone interviews are a better way to do that than short bursts of typing.

Having said that, I do like the fact that Stephanopoulos used Twitter prior to the interview to get his followers to submit questions for the Senator and I would like to see more online forums where politicians answer questions not just from journalists but from citizens as well. But asking the likes of Stephanopoulos and McCain to reduce their dialog to 140 characters per question is, in my opinion, an interesting experiment but a bad precedent. Twitter is fine for casual conversation and occasional punditry, but when it comes to the affairs of our nation, we need to hear a lot more than 140 characters from our leaders and our leading journalists.

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About the author

Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.

 

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