Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Toe-To-Toe With Hugh Hewitt

Radio talk-show host, Hugh Hewitt, should patent his latest media creation.

Distrustful of interviewers who take comments out of context and morph them into something very different when they appear in print, Hugh has come up with the idea of the "before" and "after" interview analysis. The idea works like this:

Hugh allows himself to be interviewed by a journalist, but the interview is taped for later broadcast on his show (and the transcript printed on the web)....after the article or column has appeared in print. His radio listeners and blog readers can than compare the one with the other and draw their own conclusions as to whether or not Hugh's comments were represented accurately or not.

It's a win-win situation for Hugh, who gets to fill air time and make money off of someone else's interview. It also allows for the manly art of "tit for tat" and thrust and parry that he practices with such skill and relish.

Hugh's first excursion into this new media genre took place last week in an interview with LA Times columnist and Associate Editor, Tim Rutten., who was researching a column on the future of conservative talk radio.

To begin with, Rutten deserves a lot of credit for being willing to go along with Hugh's eccentric interview demands. After reading the interview transcript posted at Radioblogger.com, Rutten also generates respect for being a good sport with a granite jaw!

Now in most interviews, the interviewer asks the questions. In this instance, however, I counted where Hewitt asked Rutten somewhere near 58 questions compared to Rutten's 42. When I subtract the 16 questions where Rutten is either repeating one of Hugh's questions or asking for clarification, the interviewer's questions are reduced to no more than 26, less than half the number of those asked by the one being interviewed!

At times the verbal exchanges gave the appearance of Hugh, as a criminal attorney, cross-examining a hostile witness. Questions flew like combination punches in a boxing match. Hugh's constant flurries of one question followed by another kept Rutten off-guard and off-topic for most of theirOccasionallyer. Ocassionally, Rutten would attempt to counter-punch or throw something like a short uppercut in a futile attempt to regain control of the bout.

Hugh took full use of his "home court (meaning radio talk show venue)" advantage and came away a winner by unanimous decision.

Hugh managed to win points by pounding incessantly on the subject of liberal bias in the media, both in general and at the LA Times, in particular. Every attempt by Rutten to respond was immediately met by a maelstrom of facts, opinions and sheer chutzpah that kept him off-balance and back on his heels.

Once back on his own turf, Rutten tried to regain some of his top ranking by lobbing dismissive names and labels at Hugh from long-distance in his column; indirectly calling Hugh a fool, a bore and a narcissist. He also continued to affirm that a good journalist (such as himself) is able to separate his/her personal political bias from their "craft" and create fair, unbiased and trustworthy reports. Thus ended the final round.

This judge, while impressed with Rutten's confidence and courage, had to give the fight to Hugh on points. There were no knockdowns and Hugh has already offered his opponent a rematch. Don't hold your breath.