The New York Daily News apparently agreed to Harold Ford's insistence he not be asked about public policy during a recent interview:
The interview - granted under the condition that the questions be limited to his rationale for running, and not issues - comes at the end of a rocky first week of buzz surrounding his potential candidacy.
Now, I suppose I can see why someone thinking of running for Senate would want to avoid questions about issues (particularly after a question about gun control led him to assure New York Times readers that he does not shoot unarmed children) though it does seem odd that "his rationale for running" and "issues" are separate things. But I'm a little less clear on why the Daily News would agree to that condition.
It isn't that I think journalists should never agree to limit the scope of an interview. But in this case, there doesn't seem to be any public interest (or, for that matter, interest from the public) in Harold Ford's non-policy comments. Why would (or should) Daily News readers care about Ford's "rationale for running" if it doesn't have anything to do with issues?
What public interest is served by running an "interview" in which Ford attacks his potential primary opponent without facing any questions about his own positions? What public interest is served by running an "interview" in which Ford declares "This race isn't about feet, it's about issues" -- but refuses to discuss issues? What possible public interest is served by an interview in which Ford is asked what's on his iPod -- he declares his fondness for Stevie Wonder and Al Green and "Alicia's and Jay-Z's new song," a reference to Empire State of Mind, a four-month-old celebration of New York -- but not about his policy disagreements with the person he's thinking of running against?
There is no real merit in any of that. Worse, in granting the condition that Ford not be asked about issues, the Daily News encourages other politicians to seek such favorable ground rules in the future.
UPDATE: Howard Kurtz seems to agree:
New York, N.Y.: The Daily News interviewed Harold Ford about his possible New York Senate run. As a condition for the interview, Ford demanded (and apparently the News agreed) that he would not be asked about issues. Why would any self-respecting journalist agree to this condition?
Howard Kurtz: Short answer: I wouldn't. And the demand doesn't reflect particularly well on the former congressman.
- New York Daily News