The Diane Sawyer interview with Jaycee Dugard was everything America expected. The woman kidnapped when she was just a child, forced by a pedophile to bear his children and live in his backyard for more than decade, was an inspiration as she spoke of motherhood, of recovery. So why can't Sawyer just let Dugard do all the talking?
The celebrated newswoman set up her own Twitter account on Friday, just in time to notify the world that she'd be tweeting about the Jaycee Special. Her second post was about the death of Betty Ford, but Sawyer quickly switched back to Jaycee with a series of live tweets that showed up during the two-hour ABC special.
For a journalist, it couldn't have been an odder decision. Sawyer has been reporting the news since the Nixon administration, not making it. And as a reporter myself, I've always had great respect for Sawyer. She's matched up fluffy celebrity interviews with some hard-hitting reports over the years.
And yet, there she was, online, stepping out to comment on the news rather than allow the newsmaker -- in this case Dugard -- to tell the story herself. That she did it as the piece aired rather than after made it that much more confusing. Were we watching a reporter or a commentator? Reading comments such as "A woman did this to another woman's child. Inconceivable #JayceeABC" makes it hard to assess whose thoughts we're supposed to be taking in -- Dugard's or Sawyer's.
Overall, the Tweets were largely innocuous, some even factual, like a warning that "20K child abduction by stranger/yr. +100 held long term Half of those 100 never return." In the latter there's the hint of how Twitter can be used by reporters to enhance a story, to drive it home to viewers/readers what the nuggets of a report are. But it's the commentary that -- however well meant -- takes the spotlight off Dugard's story and puts it on the woman whose job is to draw it out.
Granted Sawyer went to journalism school in a day and age when computers fit into a room, and Twitter co-counder Biz Stone wasn't even born. There's no real book written on how this is supposed to work. But it would behoove journalists to look at how Sawyer's opinions overtook Dugard's this time around in the path to meld the traditional journalism with digital.
Did you find Sawyer's Tweets offputting? Do you care what a reporter is thinking as she (or he) is interviewing a subject?
Image via Twitter