December 9, 2013
If the recently departed David Frost’s 1977 interviews with Richard Nixon shortly after his dramatic fall from the United States presidency were widely regarded as a milestone in probing journalism, it is unlikely that history will be so generous with Hernán Brienza’s interview with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Not only is Brienza a benign journalist but he made no attempt to conceal his pro-government loyalties, being at pains to avoid any critical tone in his questions in order to put the president at her ease — although for that very reason the first two parts were better viewing than their total lack of journalistic bite might indicate because a president talking at ease is always interesting.
But the real problem here is that these benign sessions have been the only interview granted by CFK in her second term. Nor was her predecessor and late husband Néstor Kirchner any better in this respect. Ironically enough in the current media context, Néstor Kirchner’s extremely sparse press contacts were largely limited to the newspapers Clarín and Página 12. This unlikely alliance lasted into the advent of the CFK presidency — thus the keynote interview of her 2007 presidential campaign was with the Clarín Group television programme “A Dos Voces” whose journalists were almost as cozy with the then frontrunner as Brienza. This does not mean that the viewer is better served by going to the other extreme and deploying an aggressively insulting journalist. Paradoxically enough, various Clarín Group journalists, who between 2003 and 2007 were privileged with exclusive access to the government, would be among the first to disqualify themselves on these grounds. Not only would such insulting journalists be a disservice to the viewer — they would not even be achieving their own objective of diminishing the president because they would provide her with the perfect excuse to reply in kind with cheap comeback remarks instead of serious valid responses.
It is claimed that CFK is an experienced debater who could cope admirably with a more incisive interview (indeed Senator Aníbal Fernández once suggested that she refrained out of compassion for potential rivals). Tonight’s scheduled interview is with the gossip television master Jorge Rial, who can’t be described as a pro-government journalist but was still handpicked for the task by the head of state. Rial has declared that there are no strings attached to the interview. But a good old press conference by the president would still be nice.