February 23, 2018

THE NOTION THAT THEY ASKED FOR A SPEECH IS CUTE:

The 'scripted' town-hall question: A CNN non-scandal (Erik Wemple, February 23, 2018, Washington Post)

[A] top CNN producer -- Stevenson -- took the initiative to contact Haab, who had gotten on the network's radar via previous interviews, including one with "Fox & Friends." "If Coach [Aaron] Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he could most likely have stopped the threat," said Haab.

Stevenson asked Haab what he'd like to address at the town hall, and what questions he wished to pose to politicians.

In an email offering four questions, Haab had included this: "Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained to carry on campus?" According to a CNN source, Stevenson discussed the whole thing with Haab in a phone call. CNN's plan was to have Haab preface that question with the observation he'd already made on "Fox & Friends," such that Haab would face Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) with these words:

Senator Nelson, if Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he could have most likely stopped the threat. Have we thought about having a class for teachers who are willing to be armed trained to carry on campus?

According to the CNN source, Glenn Haab, the boy's father, intervened toward the end of the process, insisting that Colton Haab present some "background" thoughts to precede his question at the town hall. "We are not actors nor do we read from a script," wrote Glenn Haab in an email to Stevenson. "The short background before each question is extremely relevant to each question. "I[f] you want Colton only to read this one short question - we are not the right people for your town hall meeting."

Years ago, the proto-Erik Wemple Blog covered municipal politics in the District of Columbia. A critical part of the assignment was attending community events and debates in which organizers would place a microphone in an aisle and invite attendees to step up and ask a question. Perhaps the most commonly repeated refrain from such events came from the moderator: "Sir, could you please get to your question?"

Indeed: When they're given the floor, people tend to filibuster. And when they're not filibustering, they're repeating the same question asked by the person before them. Or they're asking about something entirely foreign from the topic at hand. This isn't to criticize such folks, who are almost invariably well-meaning, engaged citizens.

Yet CNN is a television outlet. It had two hours to pull off its town hall. That it worked with a high-school student to winnow his thoughts into one simple and powerful question for a Democratic senator sounds like the inverse of a scandal...



Posted by at February 23, 2018 2:26 PM

  

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