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Don’t blame reporter for the Bode Miller interview

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are just past the midway point and it’s had its share of minor controversies. The weather has been warmer than needed (even fog postponed some events today), Americans blamed their new uniforms for the poor showing in speedskating and injuries suffered at the snowboard slopestyle event have been above normal.

But now we have one involving the US television carrier, NBC. It has been criticized by many outlets, including The New York Times, for pushing American skier Bode Miller too far in his post-race interview.

Courtesy of the website Jezebel, here’s a transcript of that interview in which reporter Christin Cooper interjected the recent death of Bode’s brother, nicknamed Chilly.

Miller: This was a little different. With my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sends it. So this was a little different.

Cooper: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?

Miller: (Long pause) A lot, obviously. A long struggle coming in here. And, uh, just a tough year.

Cooper: I know you wanted to be here with Chilly experiencing these games, how much does it mean to you to come up with a great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I mean, I don’t know it’s really for him. But I wanted to come here and uh — I don’t know, I guess make my self proud. (Pauses, then wipes away tears.)

Cooper: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

la-sp-on-nbc-bode-miller-interview-20140217-001At that point, Miller walked away – and the outrage began on many social media platforms. Miller, though, tweeted that: “I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. #heatofthemoment. 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.”

You can make the case that Cooper went too far, but it was what NBC asked for – and what we as viewers have wanted. Ever since the days when Jim McKay and ABC were broadcasting the Olympics, networks have sought out the human-interest stories and record ratings have ensued. In Miller’s case, that included the racing for his brother angle. It was the kind of  emotional hook networks seek, and viewers lap up.

Consider this: The interview was broadcast on tape delay, meaning NBC could have simply shortened the interview through editing. It chose not to because, the higher the emotion, the more networks believe viewers are interested.

This was not Cooper’s fault. She was simply following the brand of what the networks believe the Olympics have become.

It was an uncomfortable interview as a viewer, to be sure, and it was hard not to feel immense empathy for Miller. But make no mistake, unless all viewers want is straight sports reporting without the backstory, it was the kind of interview that supported our current version of the Olympics brand.

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