Crikey has a write up of Carlton by Stephen Feneley which says this. “At his best, Carleton was THE best, and any journalism student wanting tips on asking hard questions need only dip into Carleton’s archive for wisdom. For that we owe him an enormous debt.” I beg to differ. Carleton was the archetypcal interviewer trying to get a rise out of his victim, rather than someone putting hard questions.
He’s lionised in Feneley’s write up for his question to Bob Hawke “So, Bob Hawke, how do you feel with blood on your hands?” True enough it did get a rise out of Hawkie. Silly of Hawke to rise to the bait and his minders no doubt had kittens when Hawke lost his cool. Now I don’t suppose there’s anything terribly wrong with the question, but it doesn’t strike me as great journalism.
I think it’s a pity that its regarded as the epitome of journalism (and I suspect that there is something peculiarly Australian about thinking that this is great journalism). Kerry O’Brien is actually much more hard hitting on questions which go to the political issue of the day. Laurie Oaks too in his unremittingly ungenerous way. Then if you want to be generous Geraldine Doogue is great for getting the best out of interviewees. Without gratuitously trying to upset them she tries to get the best out of them but will nevertheless be quite forensic if necessary to get from them what she’s asking.
None of these things can be said of the late lamented Richard Carleton.
(It occurs to me that where being a conductor or an artist often seems conducive to old age we have Paul Lyneham, Andrew Olley and Richard Carelton to tell us that being a journo doesn’t stretch out your life expectancy too well.)