Arianna Huffington on Truth for Access

Question: You talk about truth for access, how can the media start asking harder questions?

Arianna Huffington: Well, it’s not just asking harder questions, it’s also asking the follow-up questions. And it’s also not embodying the conventional reasoning, the way, say, Tim Russert does. I call him the conventional reasoning zombie, because he never challenges the conventional reasoning when his guest presented, and he embodies it in his questions. So, I think the press needs to recognize that sometimes you can get the true story without access, and if you simply sell your journalistic credentials to get access, you may end up like Judy Miller, who had an enormous amount of access and she got the story completely wrong on the front pages of the New York Times about WMD and the nuclear capability of Iraq, etc., etc. Or, Bob Woodward, who had almost unlimited access to the White House and the lead-up to the one completely missed the story. I call him in the book “The Dumb Blond of American Journalism.”

Question: The problem seems to be, if the media asks hard questions, their access will be cut…

Arianna Huffington: Well, first of all, any politician, whether on whatever side of the aisle they are, would prefer soft questions to hard questions, but the key here is, are journalists trying to get to the truth? And it’s not asking hard questions for the sake of it. It’s not asking got ‘cha questions, or questions that set the politician up, it’s a question of getting to the truth. I mean, that is the fundamental duty of a journalist, and that’s all we’re talking about.

Recorded on: March 9, 2008

Challenging opinion and reason leads to better information, says Huffington.

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