Monday night ended a bit dramatically in Downtown Phoenix, but perhaps not as much as it could have.
You’ve probably seen it on the news or the Twittersphere, which was blowing up with #ArpaioASU hashtags for most of the evening and into the next morning.
In case you haven’t, here’s the quick run-down: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was in the guest hot seat in a Meet the Press-style panel interview by three of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s heavy-hitter journalist-professors: Steve Elliott, Sue Green and Rick Rodriguez. The plan was to spend a solid hour questioning the Sheriff in the school’s packed First Amendment Forum. Nothing was off limits: immigration, his relationship with the media and accusations of threats and harassment.
That hour was cut short first by embarrasing mic troubles and Dean Chris Callahan’s remarks at the beginning, asking the audience in essence to save questions for afterward and to not disturb the panel, regardless of how much they did or did not care for the Sheriff.
But, the hour was really mutilated when (and here’s the part you’ve been waiting for) a small group of idiots broke out into song. Lots of songs. Annoying songs. Songs so loud the panel was forced to discontinue and end the evening roughly 15 minutes early. Despite boos from the crowd and stern pleading from the Dean, they simply wouldn’t shut up. And, of course, they were directed at Sheriff Joe.
Here’s the thing: Kids, in case your parents never taught you this or you were too bullheaded to learn it, there’s a time and a place for everything. There was a peaceful and energetic protest (both pro- and anti-Arpaio) taking place in the building’s lobby and on Taylor Mall. You could have joined that crowd and expressed your own First Amendment rights without stepping on the rights of everyone else in the forum who had come to hear the interview.
Oh, and everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, even if it happens to be different than your own. That includes the Sheriff. And, it includes myself (a current Cronkite grad student) and every other ASU student in attendance last evening. (Due to the protests and space limitations, the school stationed police at the doors and only let in those with an ASU ID.) What’s exceptionally frustrating is these singers had no idea what they were doing, what they were ruining and how counterproductive their little stunt was.
They were interrupting a holding of account and questioning of a controversial public official. They ruined months of preparation and the chance for students to see a well-researched, pointed and tough interview. And, their singing really screwed up that possibility and actually defeated their own cause.
Dumb, dumb, dumb.
I’m refering to these singers as kids because their act was absurd and childish. And, after reading a tweet from @joshsprague, a Cronkite alum, I’m not going to give them the mantle of protestor, either. He tweeted, “‘Protestors’ is not an accurate term for the anti-Arpaio singers. Nothing was protested other than discussion.”
As a journalism student, I had been looking forward to this evening. I know two of the professors well, having been in their classes and in fellowships directed by them. The chance to see my professors, who I’ve generally only seen in an editorial role, switch gears and become the investigative journalist, was what I really wanted to see. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, gauging by how many other journalism students were around. I could have cared less what controversial public official they interviewed; I was more interested in seeing masters working their craft.
Anyone who does this type of in-depth interview, as the panel was well on their way to accomplishing Monday night, knows several things: one, the depth of research that goes into each and every possible question; two, the tact and control that must be wielded by the interviewer in order to get what he or she came for; and three, not starting off with your aha!, home-run questions. You build up to them.
Which, to me, signifies these singers were most likely not journalism students. Rumors were circulating they might have been from the College of Public Programs or student activist groups. But, really, where they came from doesn’t matter. The whole event looks terrible for the school and for ASU.
Right before the planned singing started, the panel was building up to the home runs and perhaps even a few ahas. What a shame.
Well, kiddos, hope you enjoyed your 15 moments in the spotlight. Idol and the rest of us are not at all interested in you.