Exceptional, depressing and amazing interview by Peter van Ingen on Buitenhof (Dutch tv) this morning

This morning. Both the terms Peter van Ingen and Buitenhof became trending on Twitter Netherlands. And the reason is that we could all be amazed at the style of interview by Mr. van Ingen. I dedicated a Dutch blog on the implications of such an interview style, but the foreign readers may want a bit of background information.

So what happened here in the Netherlands in the media?
Our labour party, PvdA is strongly in decline. While they reached 30 seats in parliament during elections, they have considerable less seats in polls now (see here) which creates an uncomfortable position. The Socialist Party eats up a lot of votes and there is a lot of discussion in public on the style of Job Cohen, the chair of the 30 members of Parliament. He remains the gentlemen rather than choosing for the quote-style of politics that we can see a lot these days. In doing so he is the exception.

This week, the chair of the Labour Party, Ploumen, left the party. But she also gave an exit-interview in the Volkskrant (a bit left-oriented newspaper in the Netherlands). And as a result, the pressure on Job Cohen mounts. See also this article. Cohen has outlined that he will take the criticism to heart and therefore all eyes in the Netherlands were turning to Buitenhof, this Sunday morning. Buitenhof is the main political debate program, which often serves as a platform for political discussion.

The interview in Buitenhof
This mornings edition of Buitenhof had a particularly agressive interviewer, Peter van Ingen, who fist wanted to discuss in detail what exactly had happened this week, with the exit interview of Ploumen. Then Cohen explained this but also stated: I prefer not to further engage on this issue in public, but within the party. Van Ingen kept pushing, but Cohen outlined his stance.

In a lof of the rest of the interview van Ingen effectively sort of played the devils advocate and repeated some of the criticism of Ploumen on Cohen. Which was all about style and conduct. Cohen made it clear that he was choosing his own style, his own tone of voice and that insulting nicknames said more about the insultor than himself. Yet van Ingen pushed on, not willing to listen to the content of Cohen's message.

Essentially, the interviewer kept on moaning and complaining about how Cohen conducted himself in the political arena while Cohen tried to outline his partys vision for the future. And although the tv-interview was advertised on the web as: 'Cohen's reply', (suggesting that Cohen would get the floor for his vision on developments) the interviewer didn't allow for much space and often interrupted. So we ended up with very little content in the discussion and an awful lot of tit-for-tat talk on process.

The most striking element was that the last question was: 'Did you arrange already for your succession?'. Many comments on twitter described this as impertinent, given also the previous line of questioning by the interviewer. It's not nice to wrap up the interview and throw this prepared granate to the guest. But Cohen handled it competently. And this ended the interview.

The style of interview -and the last question as the cherry on the cake- got many people annoyed. This was more about the opinion of the interviewer than giving the floor to Cohen.It got me to immediately write an analysis and comment on my Dutch blog that:

1. the choice by a tv show to not focus on content but only short time actuality/gossip is in itself also a political choice; it's not a neutral choice but a choice that also shapes the political climate,

2. the choice by an interviewer to go for an offensive style can be made, but the talk should in the end be about the guest and the opinion of the guest, rather than the opinion of the interviewer. And this interview contained quite a lot of display of morality and opinion of the interviewer, blocking the message of the guest. And underneath, the interviewer did not appear to be interested at all in the opinion of the guest. Which showed.

3. the last question about succession planning, was an impertinent one; comparable to kicking a man when he is own on the ground. And I noted that this tough-style interviewing is becoming more and more popular in the Netherlands. And thus, the Dutch media themselves play a role in creating a more rude and inpolite political climate: a serious trend that they might want to reflect on.

To vent out my amazement I wrote this Dutch blog. And in it I placed two links so that readers who would agree, could easily send out e-mails to the journalist team at Buitenhof. So that the team may reflect on what happened today in the interview with Cohen.

I hope they will succeed in getting their interview standards to a higher level, because a good functioning political system also requires solid journalists keeping up their standards.