When should you interrupt?

Journalism, Reporting

In ordinary life, if somebody says something objectionable, it may feel awkward to pull them up on it – but it’s probably the right thing to do.

Is it different for a journalist?

This week, somebody shared ugly racist sentiments with me and I offered no objection. I just looked blank. It’s something I’ve done many times.

Over the hours I was with this person, s/he said more, and worse, along the same lines.

I was surprised, because this person knew I was a journalist.

I feel ashamed that I didn’t “call it out”. 

If I was a broadcast journalist, I’d have felt compelled to do that at once, lest I sounded/looked complicit. 

But as a print journalist I tend to keep quiet and let people be themselves, and if that condemns them – so be it.

Was I right? Or am I deceiving myself? I don’t know. 

2 thoughts on “When should you interrupt?

  1. Ah, but who decides what should be ‘called out’ and what should not? Who judges the judge? If you think people are being offensive, surely they will be hoist by their own petard? Personally I think broadcast ‘journalists’ interrupt too much, too fond of the sound of their own voices & often not a little bit arrogant.

    1. I am glad you say that. I always tried (and often failed) to persuade editors to let someone condemn themselves through their quotes. Generally I was told I had to editorialise and judge them from on high.

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