Taken In By The Citizen Journalist Report

On Friday, I posted on the Michele Catalano interview done by the Citizen Journalist Report radio show. Here’s a short description of what happened from my previous post:

…Jeff & Bill really bent over backwards to pick a fight with her. Just about every question was goofball sarcasm.

… (Then) Michele went INSANE. I’m talking about a TOTAL MELTDOWN right there on the air. She goes on this wild rant, every third or fourth word she says is bleeped, and then says something about Bill’s “Jew partner” and hung up.”

There was some debate in the blogosphere over whether the interview was fake or not because it was recorded in advance and because Michele read her opening statement, but I didn’t seriously consider that they faked it for several reasons.

Michele has a temper and I seem to remember Bill and her getting into a nasty little public “blog kerfluffle” a while back, so the idea of Bill asking irritating questions to her and Michele going nuts on the air definitely seemed plausible. Plus, none of it was funny (although Michele flipping out was certainly entertaining) and all three of them were publicly denying that it was faked:

Michele Catalano: “According to witnesses, I either a) have no sense of humor; b) am a good actress or c) was completely ambushed in the interview. Or all of the above.

And yes, it was pre-taped, but only because I was on the road at 3:30 today. It wasn’t rehearsed, I promise you that.”

Michele Catalano: “Had I known it was ambush radio, I would have declined the invite.

Like I said, the show was TWO D*CKS and a chick.”

(From An Anonymous Poster): “Will everyone who cannot tell that all three of them are reading off of a script please raise their hand(s).”

Bill from INDC: “Actually anonymous, there was no script, unless by “script” you mean, “reading an outline of interview questions that are written down.” This is standard procedure, in many interviews, I assure you.”

(Reply from An Anonymous Poster): “Bill from INDC if you’re trying to say that Michelle wasn’t reading that run-on sentence after her introduction then you’re making an @ss out of yourself. No surprise.

And if you’re trying to say that the whole scenario wasn’t planned ahead of time you’re making a big @ss out of yourself.”

Response by Bill from INDC: “My Gosh anon – you’re really so dumb that you couldn’t grasp the format? Can’t you get NPR reception with your head up your @ss?”

Jeff G: “Well, anonymous, we’ve done this segment 3 times, and each time, the guest is introduced and reads an opening piece — ala an NPR “report”. Val Prieto did it last week; this week, Michele read an abstract from a longer blog piece. So in that sense it was “scripted,” though Michele wrote her own “script” to read.

Beyond that, no script. And no rehearsal.”

Well, I happened to see Michele Catalano online and checked to make sure that I didn’t hit her too hard in my post. Well, after we talked a bit, I asked her just for the heck of it if the interview was fake. Michele gave me a couple of cutesy replies and after I pressed her on it a bit, she denied that she faked it (Of course, when I went back and looked at the transcript, it was more of a “non-denial” denial than I had realized at the time. In other words, she tried to give me the impression that it was real, but she didn’t specifically say that).

Shortly after I finished talking to Michele, Bill from INDC Journal & Jeff from Protein Wisdom, asked me to come into a chat with both of them. In the chat was also someone they claimed was from RightTalk (an advertiser of mine that hosts their show), although I have no way of verifying that person’s identity.

Apparently, Jeff & Bill took note of my response to My Pet Jawa saying Michele was “in on it” (From the comments section of the other post):

“Nah, I don’t think so. Her opening spiel was read, but the rest of it didn’t sound staged.

Besides, Michele and Jeff are openly denying that it was staged and I don’t think they’d run that sort of hoax. You make something like that up once and your reputation is tarnished forever…”

After reading that, I’m guessing they decided to contact me and they verified right off the bat that it was a fake interview.

Apparently, it was supposed to be some sort of humor bit, which they say they do every show. However, I’ve heard them do interviews with Glen Reynolds, Jeralyn Merritt, Michelle Malkin, & John Cole and those were all straight interviews maybe with a couple of quips tossed in for fun (Incidentally, they were also pretty good). So, it never occurred to me that they would have another blogger on to do a fake interview.

Furthermore, even now, I really don’t get the idea of running a “humor” interview that’s not funny, with no warnings that it’s satire, and then denying that it’s fake when people speculate otherwise.

Jeff at least runs an oddball humor blog. Bill runs a serious blog that was actually an important player in the early part of the memogate scandal. Is running a hoax like this something that really mixes well with meaningful journalism?

Anyway, we discussed all this for something like 30 minutes and to be honest, they totally did not seem to get what I was saying and vice versa. Eventually, I told them I was going to post on this, Jeff kept incessantly asking me to be on the show despite the fact that I told him over and over I wasn’t interested and the chat got rather unpleasant — from the transcript (IM names changed):

Jeff: We can modulate your voice, JOhn
Bill: lol
Jeff: If it’s high and squeaky, like a mouse’s?
Jeff: Can’t we Liz?
Jeff: Butch him up a wee bit?
RightTalk: We do it so Bill sounds more manly, we can do that for John.
Bill: he doesnt want to tarnish RWN’s good name.
John: Now if you could only get some joke writers to make the show funny you’d be in good shape.
Bill: oh sh*t.

A bit later, I decided we weren’t accomplishing anything and put an end to the chat.

In any case, I’d rather have skipped posting about this if it had been possible. RightTalk is an advertiser, Jeff is a content partner whose humor I use on the blog sometimes, and I’ve had both Bill and Michele in symposiums. But, since I posted on this initially and poo-poo’d the idea of the interview being fake, I thought I should at least set the record straight.

*** Update #1 ***: This post was edited slightly for clarity’s sake & to add in another quote from Michele Catalano.

*** Update #2 ***: More from Hundred Percenter & Ace Of Spades HQ (Make sure to check out the comments)

*** Update #3 ***: Will from MSNBC’s Clicked took note of the post above and commented:

“Speaking of “blogs are mainstream media,” I have no idea what the drama is around a recent RightTalk Radio show, but between this blog and this blog you can find a good number of links and opinions. What I gather happened is that the blogger hosts of an online radio show attacked a blogger guest on their show and sensation and drama erupted. For all the big talk about blogs, they really don’t appear to have fall all that far from the established media tree.”

I’m not going to do a new post on this because there are a relatively small number of people who seem to listen to the Citizen Journalist Report and it’s difficult to explain what happened on the show to someone who hasn’t heard it. But, here’s the short version:

1) The radio show does interviews with bloggers. For some reason, they decided to run a fake interview segment with a blogger as well where they ask ridiculous questions and the interviewee improvs the answers. In this case, Michele was supposed to go along with their silly questions for a while and then explode on cue.

In retrospect, I think the general idea was that it was supposed to be funny in an Andy Kaufman sort of “Is this real or is it not” sort of way. The problem is that one of the guys who’s on the show isn’t funny & the other one is weird so you can picture them asking really dumb questions. Plus, the guest who was in on the hoax has a temper, so you could certainly believe that she’d blow-up after getting a bunch of goofy questions about atheism.

2) Anyway, they do the show and I, along with a few other blogs, commented on the segment. Some blog commenters thought it was real, others thought it was fake, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt because all three of them were publicly claiming that it was a real interview (The comments are above).

3) So, after Bill and Jeff admitted to me that it was a hoax, I posted on the subject and then all three of them claimed that obviously it was a joke, how could anyone think otherwise? Of course, judging by the comment sections around the blogosphere, a lot of people didn’t get the “joke.” On top of that, their attitude seems to be “So what if we lied about it being real afterwards, why would anyone be so dumb as to believe us in the first place?”

But when I read Michele Catalano, someone I’ve had in on symposiums, whom I had on Instant Messenger, who has been around the blogosphere for years building a reputation, saying: “Had I known it was ambush radio, I would have declined the invite,” I didn’t think “Maybe she’s lying through her teeth as part of some hoax,” I took her word for it. That was a mistake & I won’t make it with any of the 3 of them again.

What I tried to get across here is that when you run a hoax like this, you create doubt in people’s minds when you try to go back and do serious news. That doesn’t matter much with Protein Wisdom or A Small Victory given what they write about on a day to day basis, but Michele is also with the The Command Post and Bill has actually done big stories at INDC Journal. If they come up with a big scoop in the future, do you buy it or take it with a grain of salt because they might be playing Andy Kaufman again?

That’s hopefully a little better summary of what happened.

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