Interviewing 101

By Luis V. Teodoro

Journalism students should look at government radio’s Erwin Tulfo’s reaction when he failed to immediately get an interview with Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista — he threatened to slap the retired Army general and even called him crazy — as an example of how those seeking interviews should never behave.

Tulfo’s behavior was one more demonstration of how some of those in the media are so entitled that they think that anyone asked for an interview should consider it a favor.

Those practitioners with some training in the ethical and professional standards of journalism know that it’s the interviewee who’s doing the interviewer a favor, and that he or she has a right to set the terms of the interview or even reject it altogether.

And yet it isn’t the first time that an interviewer displayed his arrogance  in public and over the air. In 2013 GMA7’s Arnold Clavio berated the lawyer of accused plunderer Janet Napoles for refusing to answer questions about a Napoles case he was unfamiliar with. But only such blatant examples of interviewer arrogance have attracted public attention. There are other instances involving relatively unknown people whom interviewers berated and even made fun of.

It is behavior like this that has eroded media credibility, and made attacks against the entire press of no concern to much of the public, even if only a few practitioners have been so ethically and professionally challenged that they see nothing wrong with accepting bribes or positions in government while continuing to write opinion columns.  

As besieged as they already are by the online trolls and old media hacks of the Duterte regime, the responsible sectors of the Philippine press have to address this problem either by distancing themselves from those elements in the media who’re debasing public discourse daily, or by themselves instituting, together with the better journalism schools, on the job training programs focused not only on skills enhancement but also on  the ethical and professional imperatives of responsible practice, or both.

No excuse for Tulfo’s execrable behavior

3 June 2019

There can be no excuse for Erwin Tulfo’s utter lack of ethics and scruples in publicly insulting Secretary Rolando Bautista simply for not being able to immediately answer his demand for an interview.

No, this has nothing to do with Bautista, for Tulfo’s fault would be no less grave had he spewed his venom on a street beggar.

We do not dispute Tulfo’s assertion that criticizing government officials is part of a journalist’s job. But the vitriol he heaped on Bautista clearly had nothing to do with whether or not the secretary was doing his job and everything to do with Tulfo’s exaggerated sense of entitlement.

The issue is Tulfo’s brand of “journalism,” and we are using the term very liberally since what he and his ilk practice bear little resemblance to the profession of truth, which, ironically, is what this administration seems to prefer even as it vilifies those who do their work seriously and credibly.

Indeed, the Tulfos of this world seem to have found the perfect niche within the infrastructure of a government that has established itself as the foremost purveyor of disinformation and has run roughshod over most, if not all, our people’s basic rights and liberties, although this particular Tulfo appears to have outshone the rest when even the director general of the Philippine Information Agency called him out for being “a pretentious and poisonous media personality whose only leverage is his last name and airtime in government radio.”

Let us see how this administration deals with the mess. 
But we do hope, whatever the outcome, that the media industry in general finally realizes that the revenues such unethical and irresponsible muckraking admittedly bring in can never compensate for the damage “journalists” like Erwin Tulfo have caused the profession and, most especially, the people whose lives and reputations they so cavalierly sully.

The NUJP National Directorate