Defining "gotcha journalism"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

During an interview with CBS on Monday, John McCain complained about "gotcha" reporting. He was referring to the fact that journalists over the weekend at a campaign event overheard Sarah Palin answer a question from a voter regarding her position about Pakistan. It was a position that seemed to differ with McCain's.

When Katie Couric brought up the incident, McCain denounced the incident as "gotcha" journalism because Palin had been speaking with a voter.

That strikes us as odd. Because Palin pretty much refuses to answer question from reporters on the campaign trail, that leaves them little option but to seek out her exchanges with voters. Or does the McCain camp consider entire campaign events to be off the record for reporters?

When Barack Obama made controversial comments to supporters at a fundraiser and they were reported online in April, his campaign did not complain about "gotcha" journalism. And when Bill Clinton was taped on a campaign event rope line attacking Vanity Fair, the Clinton campaign did not complain about "gotcha" journalism.

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