If you want entertainment and an example of a TV shouting match that does not advance understanding of an issue, John Lott’s recent interview on Piers Morgan Tonight [ full interview here] showcases why sometimes you may not be better off not going into media lion’s den.
Lott, a staunch opponent of gun control and author of More Guns, Less Violence, went in most likely expecting a challenging, but relatively civilized discussion on the merits of various approaches to reducing violent crime in the United States. Big mistake on his part.
This show was a not about a very neutral Morgan interrupting Lott and trying to gain agreement, vs. allowing Lott to at least present his points and then countering with another question. Morgan also invited attorney Alan Dershowitz on to provide counter arguments to Lott. It smacked of “piling on.”
As a former interviewer, I believe it’s important that you develop good questions first. You can also express a point of view and communicate that. But it’s bad form to bully or badger a guest. The discussion degenerated to the point where basic facts could not be agreed upon.
In hindsight, unless there were set ground rules, I would have recommended that Lott avoid this show. Here are a few “clues” that should make you think twice about participating in an interview:
- The discussion revolves around a highly charged emotional issue such as violent crime
- The interviewer is known to be biased against you or your cause
- Your arguments appear counter intuitive to the specific show’s audience.