Over at CRIC-SIS, Shridhar Jaju highlights a particularly tough question at Graeme Smith’s post-match press conference. (See below at 2:18):
As a former reporter, I know the tightrope that must be walked when asking sources difficult questions. On the one hand, these types of queries usually yield the best (i.e., the most interesting) answers. They challenge personalities and fulfill a basic responsibility of journalism (i.e., ask the question that the public wants answered). On the other hand, there’s no reason to be rude. It’s clear from the video that the reporter’s first language isn’t English, and perhaps he thought his joke (“Instead of chokers, you should be called jokers”) would lighten his tone, but humor rarely works in such situations. In this case, it clearly didn’t ;Smith just says, “I think I’ve got your question” to cut the reporter off.
There’s a broader issue: what is the point of post-match press conferences? I’m not a sports writer, and quite frankly, I don’t read much sports journalism (other than Cricinfo) but it seems the best writing I come across relies the least on these events. Their only use is to fulfill the requirement that articles record responses of a player — but if the player doesn’t have any insights, why does that merit precious column space? Maybe I’m being too dismissive; perhaps reporters just need to ask more useful questions, like what players were feeling and thinking at particular moments in the match (E.g., Yuvraj, did you plan that magnificent Brett Lee over, or was it spontaneous?). This is the difference between asking, “What is your typical day like?” and “What did you do yesterday?”
And, really, what rational person can explain what happened to South Africa? Who can explain the intangible effect pressure has on good players, so that against, say, Bangladesh, their risks and talents turn in their favor, whereas against New Zealand (in a quarterfinal), they don’t? That’s why I like the first question from this press conference: Graeme, can you tell us how you feel? The answer isn’t that great, but when Smith’s face falls briefly into his hands, you understand.