Could Wolf Blitzer be any duller than when he anchors The Situation Room for CNN?
In a Q&A titled “Reporting tips from Wolf Blitzer” published on the CNN website today as part of the network’s iReport project, Blitzer establishes his status as the standard reference unit of journalistic dullness with a series of limp responses to practical questions about his profession.
“How do you know when a story is worth covering?” the unnamed interviewer asks Blitzer. He answers, “My rule of thumb is that if I am interested or intrigued by something, others will be as well.”
“Where are some good places to look for story ideas?” He answers, “I speak to a lot of people and go to a lot of websites looking for tips.”
“Where have you found your best stories?” Blitzer wakes himself from a nap to intone: “My best stories come from well-placed sources who point me in the right direction.”
The Blitzer tedium piles up like Minnesota snowdrifts as the interview plods on. As for sources: “If you are a reliable, honest journalist, sources will open up and trust you and share good information.” His advice about getting sources to speak on the record? “My best advice is simply to be honest with the sources.” Ignoring the traditional limits of obviousness, Blitzer explains that the “best sources are the ones who are deeply involved in the stories and know a great deal about them.”
Let’s summarize: To excel in journalism, says Blitzer, you must be polite, honest, talk to a lot of people—especially the well-connected and knowledgeable—and consult a lot of websites. After I commented earlier today on the flatness of Blitzer’s tedium, my colleague Charles Homans tweeted his own Blitzer-inspired tips for journalists: “Breathing is important. Remember to eat and sleep when necessary.”
Beating on Blitzer is an old game. I went to town on him in a 2008 column in which I analyzed the limited Blitzer-ese dialect, and that same year Greg Veis ridiculed the poor bastard in the New Republic, writing:
The man’s so devoid of charisma that you can picture him reporting, in his endearing monotone, that a comet is headed straight for CNN studios and that he’ll be prematurely robbed of his molecular composition and the chance to ever see his family again in seven, six, just five seconds now.
There’s something machine-like about Blitzer’s choice of words in this interview, his voice on television, his stance, and even his dance. The questioner asks about Blitzer’s favorite narrative techniques. “I like to tell the story and get to the point quickly.” What are the rules for writing a good headline? “Grab the attention of the readers; make them want to read on.” Best advice he’s gotten for writing a good headline or tease? “Make them want more.”
Blitzer’s oddly short answers barely pass the Turing Test, which poses the question CNN should ask its anchor: “Wolf Blitzer, what make and model of robot are you?”
My answer: The De-Energizer Bunny. Derek Thompson almost diagnosed Blitzer’s mechanical condition with this afternoon tweet: “Wolf’s ability to fill time and, it would seem, space, with a constant stream of monologue is so amazing its nearly a superpower.” Send your guess of Blitzer’s make and model to firstname.lastname@example.org and judge for yourself whether or not my Twitter feed passes the Turing Test. (Email may be quoted by name in “The Fray,” Slate’s readers’ forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)
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