NBC reporter Christin Cooper's interview with U.S. skier Bode Miller after he tied for a Bronze Medal in the men's super-G yesterday was "a shameful spectacle," according to David Bauder of the AP. Cooper "repeated essentially the same question -- a variation of 'how does it feel?' -- again and again and again until she not only drew tears, but a complete breakdown by Miller over the death of his younger brother within the past year." It was "tone-deaf and cruel, and short-circuited the thoughtful, intelligent perspectives Miller had started to offer until he couldn't talk anymore." It is "even more inexplicable that NBC felt the need to show it all; it wasn't live" (AP, 2/17). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes under the header, "NBC Pushes Too Far In Bringing Bode Miller To Tears." If an interviewer has "made a medal winner cry, it is time to simply say 'thank you' and move on." It was "on tape, so NBC could have cut it off and gone to Matt Lauer in the studio." Instead, Cooper "forged on, wondering whom he seemed to be talking to when he looked up in the sky before he started his run down the mountain." It was "not a bad question, but by this point, it was overkill." Emotion is a "real and honest element of athletic triumph and defeat," and viewers "don’t want a network to tell its journalists to stick to soft questions when interviewing the winners." Sandomir: "But in this instance, Cooper and NBC lacked the sensitivity to know when enough was enough" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/17). FOXSPORTS.com's notes Cooper is "not a lifelong journalist, but rather an Olympian skier herself, having won silver in the giant slalom" in the '84 Sarajevo Games (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/17).
MILLER DEFENDS COOPER: Miller today addressed the controversy surrounding Cooper and said, "I've known Christin for a long time and she's a sweetheart of a person. I know she didn't mean to push. I don't think she really anticipated what my reaction was going to be. I think by the time she sort of realized, then I think it was too late. I don't blame her at all. I feel terrible that she's taking the heat for that because it was just a heat of the moment circumstance. I don't think there was any harm intended and it was just a lot of emotion for me" ("Today," NBC, 2/17). Miller earlier today tweeted, "I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. ... My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have, pushing is part of it, she wasnt trying to cause pain" (TWITTER.com, 2/17).
TAKING HEAT FROM TWITTER: Cooper's interview drew a lot of heat on Twitter. SI’s Mark Mravic: “NBC had about 16 hours to decide whether it was a good idea to air that disgraceful Cristin Cooper/Bode Miller interview. … Still thinking about NBC Bode Miller. Journalists must respect their interview subjects. They are people, not plotlines.” Writer Amanda Rykoff: “We know you love the personal side of the stories, but that interview with Bode Miller went too far.” The Boston Herald’s Charlie Abrahams: “Shame on you @NBC @NBCOlympics. That was seriously out of bounds!” The Lehigh Valley Express-Times’ Bill Ross: “NBC should remove Christin Cooper from Olympic coverage immediately. Her interview with Bode Miller was everything that is wrong w/the media.” The Orlando Sentinel’s George Diaz: “Bode Miller interview classic ambush 'make him cry' journalism. Weak.” BizOfBaseball’s Maury Brown: “Christin Cooper is the new Jim Gray... only worse.”
JUST DOING HER JOB: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly notes social media following the interview "immediately set upon Cooper, ripping her as an opportunist and an emotional ghoul." Kelly: "And, as usual, they’re wrong." Cooper's interview "does not come anywhere close to crossing an ethical line." At no point "does she hector" Miller, and at no point does Miller "definitively dissuade her from her line of questioning." Kelly: "Rather than blame Christin Cooper for provoking tears from Miller, we might ask ourselves why, for so many of us, our first reaction upon seeing that sort of raw emotion is anger" (TORONTO STAR, 2/17). Newsday's Neil Best wrot eon his Twitter account, "Finally saw NBC's chat with @MillerBode. Chillax! One question too many? Maybe. But nothing out of line in context of normal Olympic pathos" (TWITTER.com, 2/17). In Denver, John Meyer admits he has not watched the interview but writes, "I do know Cooper, and I know how much respect she has for athletes." Meyer: "I’d love to know what the producers were screaming in her earpiece when she was interviewing Miller" (DENVERPOST.com, 2/17). SI.com's Richard Deitsch writes there is "no question Miller's brother was part of the narrative NBC was trying to push in the post-race interview, but the question is how far should they have pushed." If "you want to place blame on someone for going too far here for a storyline -- if there is even blame to place -- choose the producers." They decided to air a "non-live interview for maximum impact" (SI.com, 2/17).
TUGGING AT THE HEARTSTRINGS: SPORTS ON EARTH's Emma Span writes under the header, "NBC's Olympic Coverage Is Too Drawn To Tears." Span writes many viewers "felt uncomfortable" watching Cooper's interview with Miller -- "as if we were witnessing a private moment that we had no place witnessing, and one that NBC had clearly provoked." However, Cooper "is not the real issue here." She is "the tree," and NBC's "overarching and now decades-long approach to covering the Olympics is the forest." For "many years now, but seemingly more with every Olympics it airs, NBC has prized emotional stories of athletes overcoming adversity above all else -- including the actual sporting events." The net's coverage is "drawn to tears like a shark to blood" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/17). In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes Cooper's interview "seemed typical of what television reporters do for ratings." Dufresne: "I do think the interview and subsequent reaction undermines the story of the day, which was Weibrecht's unbelievable result. But hey, that's television" (LATIMES.com, 2/17). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton wrote the Olympics to NBC are "a TV show, not just a sporting competition." They are "a 17-day miniseries, to be edited, deleted, milked for drama and, as we were reminded last week, sometimes even scripted for your viewing enjoyment" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/17).