Neil Munro: Playing a Reporter on TV

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On Friday, reporter Neil Munro heckled Barack Obama as the president announced his new policy toward the children of illegal immigrants:

President Obama became embroiled in a furious confrontation with a political reporter who heckled him as he announced his new immigration policy in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday. 

During Obama's speech, Neil Munro, an Irish-born reporter for conservative website the Daily Caller, yelled: 'Why do you favour foreigners over American workers?' 

A clearly rattled Mr Obama, who was announcing plans to allow 800,000 illegal immigrants to the stay in the U.S., responded: 'Not while I'm speaking.' As the president tried to carry on with his speech, Munro continued to heckle him, drawing an angry response from Mr Obama and fellow reporters.
Tucker Carlson, the Caller's founder, defended his reporter:

"A reporter's job is to ask questions and get answers. Our job is to find out what the federal government is up to. Politicians often don't want to tell us. A good reporter gets the story. We're proud of Neil Munro." 
I think this is basically true. Moreover, I think way too much is made of deference to power -- be that power public or private. A reporter's job is to be direct, candid, and confrontational in pursuit of answers. It is not their job to be liked by, or even be deferential to, the people they cover. With that said, it's very easy to slide from principled candor into the ridiculous. That Neil Munro was doing the latter is not evidenced by the manner of his reporting, but by the fact that he wasn't actually reporting at all. 

As Tim Fernholz points out, Munro is "reporting" with his hands in his pocket. This is only slightly less bizarre than claiming to be doing carpentry while handcuffed, though ultimately more dangerous. Reporting is a manual act and the attempt to "get answers" ostensibly requires one to record them. That's what the other people in the picture above are doing. Munro is simply interrupting a guy trying to give a speech. It's worth taking a look at the video, in which you can see Obama answering Munro's question, and Munro recording none of it.

When actual reporters approached Munro afterward to get his take, he responded about as well as you would expect:

Asked afterwards who he was, Munro simply said: 'I'm just a reporter asking questions you should be asking.' When journalists asked if he would give his name, he said: 'Yeah. But you'll misspell it.'

The irony here is thick as bread, and the irony of Munro's boss thicker still. Tucker Carlson is a guy who once sanctimoniously lectured conservatives over the state of their media, who claimed that accuracy should be the highest value in conservative media. In his own version of being the change, Carlson has taken to exhibiting the Twitter feeds of dead teenagers, and sending out reporters who can't be bothered with taking notes.

This guy used to be an actual journalist. What happened?
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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