Tuesday, November 8, 2011



One of the silliest bullshit stunts by media come in the preening boasts about "exclusive" interviews with prominent figures.
You know, the editor knows the personality or leader was interviewed at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. but bigawd my guy had an "exclusive" interview at 2 p.m.
Walter Isaacson has been the main editor at Time and an accomplished biographer. After his book on Steve Jobs was released, Isaacson has appeared on or in just about every media outlet known to man. In fact, it would be easier to list the media that haven't featured him.
So I found it amateurish nonsense in the Nov. 14 Maclean's in the column marked "from the editors" for one of them to write that Isaacson had talked to their correspondent "in an exclusive Canadian interview."
An "exclusive" interview is something to crow about if it is with someone who hasn't been talked to for years and has something to reveal. That happens rarely in in the relentless 24/7 news cycle where you can be bored within a day with the coverage of the death of some person you didn't even know had been alive.
Any media boss that wants to hang an "exclusive" tag on a talk with a PM or CEO who is quoted widely and regularly should be forced to take a Journalism 101 course.
Now I have had my share of "exclusive" interviews and scoops but I became so weary of such breathless claims that I almost never said so.
In fact, in one ''exclusive" interview with a world leader, I thought it would be presumptious to take a bow.
I headed the Canadian delegation to the International Press Institute which had hundreds of publishers and editors from more than 50 countries who would meet annually in some controversial city like Jerusalem to fight for democracy and press freedom.
Doug Creighton, the founding Sun publisher, grumbled about me going off to Japan at a busy time. I told him that among the speakers was Nelson Mandela. You can go, he said, if you get an "exclusive" interview. Nuts, I said, and went anyway.
The conference gathered in ancient surroundings in Kyoto near the famous Zen garden where you use a raised walkway to look down on 15 moss-covered stones surrounded by carefully raked gravel. I was walking and staring down and ran right into a big guy who started to fall off the edge. I grabbed Nelson Mandela and saved him. "Migawd," I said, "I just wiped  out the guest speaker."
His bodyguards were furious but Mandela waved them away. Then we all went off to a buffet. I slipped into the line behind Mandela and chatted. His favourite food was porridge, he declared. Then we stood under a tree with our plates and talked some more.
I asked why he was in Japan when his then wife, Winnie, was on trial back in Jo-burg. "We have good lawyers," he said.
My interview was interesting and ran big on Page 2 of the Sun. But I never said it was "exclusive," not with the brass of every major newspaper in the world all around us eager to gab with him at any opportunity.
The next day, Mandela gave the keynote speech. I figured out his exit door and stood there. As he walked by, he said: "Here's the Canadian who hits so hard. What did you think of the speech?"
I said I didn't like it because he hadn't written it himself and it ignored the Zulu, one of the major groups in the future of his troubled country.
"How did you know I didn't write my speech," Mandela demanded. "Because when you got to the end, you turned the page and there wasn't anything there," I told him. He laughed and said I had caught him.  What a great man! He evolved from just another terrorist to a wonderful forgiving leader almost worshipped by his people
 He's been erased by Alzheimer's, unfortunately, so his appearance are few and careful.  It is one interview I will never forget, even though it was only "exclusive" for a few brief moments on a sunny day under a shade tree in the garden of an ancient ruin

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