Not all “exclusive” interviews are created equal…
A couple weeks back Star features columnist Jenee Osterheldt gave a hearty clap on the back to Oprah for putting Lance Armstrong on the hotseat and not letting up with the tough questions.
“She pulled no punches,” Osterhedlt wrote. “She started with yes and no questions first, making him admit what he did, and then she cornered him into specifics.”
Would that Osterheldt done the same given her chance to corner former KCUR FM host Jabulani Leffall.
Instead, given the chance to drill down to any number of prickly specifics, Osterheldt opted to give Leffall and lob softballs at the I-quit-on-the-air- with-no-notice-or-warning former broadcaster.
Frankly, I don’t get it.
First of all, beginning a column with the pronouncement that Leffall isn’t “crazy” is a bit of a leap.
Saying he isn’t calls into question that perhaps he just might be is one problem. Not to mention that a newspaper columnist is hardly in the position to make such a determination after a hour or so meeting over coffee.
It was a chat where the tough questions – if asked at all – appear not to have been followed up on.
Clearly Leffall is in damage control mode after coming under scrutiny by the Pitch as to whether or not we was on drugs during his last show. He wasn’t, an unnamed source/friend told the alt weekly.
After being accused of not coming clean with his listeners of the past two years and going into hiding by KC Confidential, Leffall finally decided to return requests from the Pitch for an ultra brief email and telephone interview in which no less than four times it was made clear that he said he wasn’t “in hiding.”
Still there was no clue as to why he bailed so abruptly and harshly. No new news, except that he wasn’t “hiding” and would not explain the reasons for his departure.
Which set the table for Osterheldt’s opportune, face-to-face moment of truth with Leffall.
However instead of getting to the bottom of things and at least pressing for answers to hard question – and then reporting that he declined to answer those questions – we learned in paraphrased terms that Leffall says he didn’t plan to quit that day on the air. That it wasn’t “pre-meditated” – the moment just seemed “right.”
Surely he must have given it some thought prior to pulling the plug on the air. After all, he’s not crazy, right?
Oh and that Leffall’s quiting like that wasn’t “necessarily” about KCUR.
What does that mean? Evidently it means that in part it was about KCUR. In large part or in small? We still don’t know because Osterheldt didn’t ask the followup questions.
Instead, Osterheldt allowed Leffall to tap dance ad nauseum about the state of journalism today. What? Leffall wasn’t playing journalist at KCUR, he was playing talk show host.
Osterhelt then lets Leffall of ramble off in paragraph after paragraph about his personal interests and issues about music, poetry and being black.
Nobody wanted to hear about all that.
Just as nobody wanted to listen to Lance Armstrong prattle about the rigors of biking, what it was like dating Sheryl Crow and that he was still “finding himself.”
Kansas City was just not that vested in this out-of-towner with a penchant for international business and finance who replaced what was left of the legend that once was Walt Bodine.
We wanted to know what really lead to Leffall’s bailing.
Was he under pressure to perform by the new boss man at KCUR? Was he uncomfortable working within the constraints of public radio? What came over him to quit so suddenly that even he says he didn’t know he was going to do it?
Is he a little crazy?
Why not ask him that?
Has Leffall had his fill of Kansas City and now wants to move on? Why not ask him that? Does getting a handful of freelance pieces published make him a journalist? Uh, no.
How were Leffall’s ratings compared to Bodines? Steve Kraske‘s? Aside from the sniping here and there did the station receive too many listener complaints about his show and on-air delivery?
And if Leffall is indeed “done caring what people think,” as Osterheldt claims, why did he finally break down and call the Pitch and the Star to do damage control?
Here’s the real deal, ladies and gentleman:
Most serious journalists would give their eye teeth to garner an “exclsuive” interview with a controversial, elusive character like Leffall. But the news window is small, in a handful of weeks he’ll be forgotten. A footnote.
Unfortunately to gain such an interview, it’s a lot easier to let people off the hook, go with light questions and take what you are given rather than what you wanted and know that the public wants.
Which often ends up rendering the exercise “journalism light.”
My question for Osterheldt:
What would Oprah have done?