AS a lifestyle journalist for almost two decades now, I’ve had my share of FMD (foot-in-mouth disease) moments when interviewing subjects. And let me tell you, they weren’t pretty. It’s one of the hazards of the profession, which, no matter how well prepared or experienced you are, happens to the best and the brightest among us.
With time, such bad memories become hazy. But when certain bloopers you’d rather forget hit you from out of the blue with surprising clarity, they’re enough to make you cringe and ask yourself what the f-ck was I thinking.
Years ago, for instance, I remember interviewing a successful French businessman who lived here in Manila with his wife and two kids (I think they still do). The subject of the feature wasn’t even controversial, as it focused on a photo shoot featuring the guy in a number of beautiful barongs.
In fact, it was one of those assignments where the story had to play second fiddle to the pictures. Still, I had to interview the subject (and several accomplished and stylish gentlemen like him during the course of the day) if I were to produce decent enough text to accompany the planned fashion spread. In short, from a journalist’s point of view, it was a nonstory, so I didn’t bother to do any form of research.
I came in from the cold with a basic knowledge that the subject, apart from being good-looking, was a rich businessman based on his fancy address and the things he allowed himself and his family to be surrounded with.
In my desire to break the ice, make him open up and get to know more about his opinion on men’s fashion, especially the nice barongs he was about to wear, I unwittingly came up with this question that afterwards had me and the subject frozen for what seemed like three long agonizing seconds.
“Sir, what lovely kids you have. And this place with a magnificent view of the Makati skyline is simply breathtaking. It MUST BE VERY EXPENSIVE to live here?”
Are you serious?
The moment I said the last sentence, the subject simply stared at me and, obviously unable to believe his ears, gave me that look that seemed to say: “Are you serious?”
I now forget how I was able to wiggle out of that situation, but I had several things going for me that time: my editor wasn’t there (otherwise, she would have bludgeoned me to death on the spot); the subject proved to be gracious enough to eventually let it slip and pretend that he wasn’t dealing with a total idiot; and, most importantly, the interview, which was for a newspaper, wasn’t being videotaped.
And even if it aired, the interview happened years before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter became indispensable and ubiquitous accouterments of modern-day living. In short, my booboo wouldn’t have gone viral.
Flak from netizens
I bring this topic up in light of the recent flak my colleague, the mild-mannered and accomplished Ricky Lo, has been getting from netizens based on the nearly five-minute interview he did recently with Anne Hathaway in Tokyo.
Although Ricky is a veteran print journalist with a huge following as columnist and entertainment editor of a certain Manila-based daily, he also has a segment on TV (which, I have to admit, I don’t follow) where his interviews are aired.
His involvement in TV is of a more recent development compared to his more than four decades working as a print journalist. In short, doing on-air interviews, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t his forte.
I stumbled on this link and read parts of the transcript before posting it on my wall without viewing the video myself. Since I know the guy, I was afraid to see for myself whether or not he deserved the flak he has been getting. I wanted my Facebook friends to weigh in first while I summon enough courage to view Ricky’s interview with Anne eventually. Below is the link:
Based on the feedback I got, one word kept on recurring: Ricky made them “cringe.” One even said that she had “no more words left to say,” while not a few said they couldn’t bring themselves to finish watching it. Well, they were brave. I couldn’t even bring myself to begin watching it!
My US-based brother-in-law, who doesn’t know Ricky from Adam but has a way with words, said: “on a scale of 1-10, the Cringometer was reading 15.”
Despite a slew of teasers, I was too afraid to even go near the said link until I stumbled on the wall of my good friend Ivy (my favorite sounding board who probably can’t wait to find the perfect excuse to block me once and for all one of these days from her friends’ list) with a post defending Ricky, obviously a good friend of hers from way back:
These were Ivy’s exact words:
“Those who have nothing better to do than join the bandwagon of Ricky Lo bashers—bloggers and netizens especially—please look at yourself in the mirror and ask if you have achieved even a speck of what Ricky has achieved in the field that he undoubtedly rules. I myself have been in journalism for 25 years and will not dare say I come close to Ricky’s stature and achievement.
“Go on and laugh at his regional accent or the awkward moments in the interview. But Ricky is the benchmark for most entertainment writers…what are you benchmarked for? Baka kahit ageing stuntman di magpa interview sa inyo–and for that, it’s you who must cringe! (Even a has-been stuntman might not even sit down with you for a second for an interview.)”
Leveling it up
I couldn’t resist myself from weighing in, and fired this rather long response not to insult anyone, especially Ivy, (takot ko lang ma-block), but to hopefully generate a livelier level of discourse.
“I haven’t seen the video [yet]. I’m afraid of what I might see–awa, hiya, panghihinayang (pity, shame, regret)–because I know the guy. But if Ricky Lo is as intelligent and as resilient as he is, he should look at it plainly and see where he has gone wrong.
“If that were the basis of your argument that very few can hold a candle with regards to Ricky’s accomplishments as a journalist, then there would be no critics (netizens can be critics) for movies, plays, and books since we all know that these critics are mostly not directors, playwrights and writers themselves.
“But you don’t have to be one to know if a work sucks. The way I see it based on the reactions I’ve initially read, there was a big disconnect between interviewer and interviewee. It was either poor preparation on the interviewer’s part or he is simply unaware about his subject.
“If that were the case, he should have assigned the coverage to someone who is more in tune with the zeitgeist. There’s nothing wrong with that. No 2, the video amplifies it. We won’t be talking about it now without that incriminating video.
“Let’s face it, not all of us journalists (I for one am not) are cut out for video. It’s a totally different animal were no dead air is allowed and bloopers are magnified a million times.
“When he sat down with Anne, it might sound like a cliché, but he’s not just representing the paper and the network he works for. He was, whether he likes it or not, representing the country. He should learn from this, make adjustments and brush up on pop culture before moving on. Netizens have a right to make their feelings known. By allowing himself to be videotaped, Ricky is fair game.”
Ana Dizon who?
Ivy being Ivy (like Ana Dizon being Ana Dizon—a little private joke between us there 😀 ) took it well, but had to impress upon me that I should view the video first before we could talk any further. Oo nga naman (And rightly so.) With a great deal of trepidation, I finally did, and this was my verdict, with a bit of editing, on the entire Ricky-Anne brouhaha.
“I’ve seen it in its entirety, Ivy… It wasn’t as ‘cringe-inducing’ (as I imagined it to be) if you know him well. He was just being Ricky Lo, accent and all. But it was obvious that his questions were way out of Anne’s league. But then again, what can you do if you were given only less than five minutes to skin the cat?
“On the other hand, giving him ten minutes might have turned disastrous because Ricky obviously appeared nervous, and Anne, the pro that she is, could sense this. Anne, being the hottest A-lister in Hollywood these days, has a firm idea of her place (in the movie firmament).
“She was a closet bitch, if you haven’t noticed, from the way she threw back questions at Ricky like the weight and empathy issues (which for me were perfectly legitimate questions). For instance, there was nothing personal about the question of how a woman like her, someone who became rich and famous at a young age, was able to relate to someone as poor, as unknown and as desperate as Pantene, er, Fantine. As an actress, Anne should have expected, no matter how many times, to be asked that.
“Where Ricky faltered was lingering on Lea Salonga. It was as if she wanted to score brownie points with Lea at the expense of the interviewee in front of him. Such Pinoy-style of interviewing like what’s your message for Lea and could you personally invite your fans in Manila to watch ‘Les Mis’ no longer works. It’s a waste of time because the subject has already talked about (and expressed her admiration for) Lea and has obviously agreed to sit down to promote the movie. Ano pa ba iyun, eh di ba tacit invitation na? (Wasn’t talking about the movie a tacit invitation already?)
“Personally, as a journalist, I have countless bloopers as well that to this day make me cringe when I remember them. Ricky’s misfortune is he was on video. Again, this wasn’t entirely his fault. Video is not his best suit. The online people from his paper should have edited those awkward moments before uploading it on the net.
“Kaya lang, baka maging two minutes na lang ang interview. (Had they done so, however, the interview would have been reduced to two minutes.) They should have put their cherished Ricky in a good light. But what did they do? They’ve uploaded the interview in its entirety, including the supalpal (cut off) moments Ricky had (from Anne).
“That shouldn’t have been done. As for Ricky, he should start overhauling his line of questioning. And like you (referring to Ivy) said, he should have been briefed on what questions to explore (and not to explore) by Anne’s handlers.
“But for all we know, he probably was, but still insisted because it was his job as a journalist to be dogged and persistent. My verdict, it wasn’t Ricky’s best interview (no excuses), but it wasn’t a cause for national shame as some people put it. Grover Washington Jr. (Grover—a fusion of grabe [extreme] and over, a gay Filipino slang) naman ang ibang netizens. (Some netizens can be too much.)”
Ivy: “I’m glad you saw my point and I see yours too…Yes, he pushed the Lea thing a bit too far, considering that Anne had already raved about THE Lea earlier.
“By the way, if you do not know yet or the others, the Lea reference was not just pulled from thin air. It was from the context of Anne mentioning Lea in her Vogue interview.
“And I totally agree with you that the video should have been edited by the website people because I believe the taped interview is primarily for Startalk, Ricky’s TV show, while an article ON the interview is meant for the paper. That said, let’s face it that RICKY LO IS RICKY LO…!”
The tread Ivy started on her Facebook account is still generating responses as I write this, but below was my last, ahem, substantial take regarding it.
“Netizens are netizens (like Anna Dizon is Anna Dizon). They’re members of a virtual mob accountable to no one but themselves for their actions, so we shouldn’t be disappointed if they act that way. We are netizens, too, so it’s just a matter of advancing an argument and see which argument gains more traction.
“Ivy, I know the Vogue thing. I’m a subscriber, di ba? But, that’s it, it’s so old hat. (December issue pa!) Even Anne channeling her mom (a former stage actress) has been written about to death. Had Anne answered that, Ricky would have ended up with nothing new to impart the public.
“In the end, Ricky had his own share of lapses, too. And Anne, for all her stature, was being just matter of factly. Instead of ending up saying so many words, she chose to cut Ricky off (which also revealed a lot about her and her latent ‘divaliciousness’)…
“And, let’s face it, Ivy, between you and me and the rest of your followers 😀 , Ricky, bar none, is the master of scoops and blind items. Nobody does it better and with such panache than him, making the purveyors of the unnamed gay producers, macho actors and sexy starlets of this world look like stinking tyros.
“But, I dare say, TV is not Ricky’s best suit. We can’t be everything to everyone all the time. Even the Philippines’ so-called Queen of All Media is one horrible actress blessed with the gift of gab… (That’s a subject for another story).
“If Ricky chooses to stay on TV, he should work extra hard. It’s the cruelest medium there is. He needs to prep like crazy and be guided by a competent team. And those online editors of his paper should do their job naman.”
His friend, Lea
And, finally, back to Lea Salonga. Does Ricky need to emphasize to Anne that he talked to his “friend” Lea Salonga the other day before the interview?
Does he need to impress upon Anne, before handing her his phone containing Lea’s supposed text, that Lea and him are tight. Celebrities in the West don’t care, or, at least, make it appear that they don’t care, even if you’re friends with Obama. This very Pinoy style of dropping names to gain the subject’s attention is so panis (stale)! It should be banished from standard media practice, pronto!