Thursday, September 9, 2010

Curious Denial: Michel Martin, The Disappointing Interviewer

Michel Martin from Tell Me More interviewed me at 2 AM my time yesterday. I was not alone. The Founder of Student Loan Justice was also a part of this so-called conversation on student loan debt. While I had no illusions about the nature of this talk, I was aghast at Ms. Martin's tone - to say it was disdainful is putting it lightly.

I received 3 questions about 20 minutes before the talk. They seemed like fair enough questions, and I took the time to respond to them with 3-4 key points. Then the call took place. Here were the three questions that I was more than prepared to answer:

1. What are the changes that came with the health care bill?

2. Why is this a widespread problem as opposed to just a blip with the bad economy?

3. What is realistic to do? Congress is going to take years to fix the problem... What can parents and students do today?

Those were not the questions asked, and I'm not sure why. I'd like to know who she thinks is an expert, and if she was a nasty with Mr. Kantrowitz as she was with the two of us. 

First, she lit into Mr. Collinge about being in default, and then she demanded that I tell her the exact amount of money I owed on my student loans. I let her know that I wasn't entirely sure, but also made it clear that I'd received some scholarships for the degrees I've pursued (Ms. Martin and I, as it turns out, both attended the same school). She then shot back, "well, what's the status of your loans?" Wow. Aggressive. Fine. She's a radio personality, and that's understandable, I thought. I said, "sorry, do you mean am I in default?"

"Well, yes!" she exclaimed.
I replied, "I've never been in default, and I pay my loans on a regular basis."

Ms. Martin seemed satisfied with that answer, but then she began to delve further into this idea of personal responsibility. Mr. Collinge and I had similar answers. Sadly, she had little interest in talking to us about the people for whom we advocate, and that is precisely why I thought I'd been asked to be a part of her show.

I thought we were both invited onto her show to discuss the actual systemic problems relating to the student lending crisis. It was shocking to be grilled in this manner, and she did the same to the other guest. Oh, well, I guess I'm prepared to be interviewed next by Fox News. Who knows? Perhaps Ms. Martin works for them, and I was mistaken by thinking she cares about social issues and is employed by the so-called liberal radio station NPR. 

What's the most tragic? She is doing a disservice to millions of people who are drowning in debt. Shame on you, Ms. Martin. "If nothing is assumed," Ms. Martin, you sure sounded presumptuous as ever.

Next up, why Michelle Singletary at the Washington Post is lame and doesn't have a clue . . .


Anonymous said...

NPR is Manhattan limousine liberal stupidity. Every time they discuss students' and workers' issues, they start talking like a polite version of Sean Hannity. Don't talk to them about bread and butter issues. It will make them question their place in society. They don't want to hear it.

All is fine in the USA thanks to the great benevolence of the caviar-stuffed pseudo-"left"! La-di-da-di-da! Butterflies! Rainbows!

Liz said...

This is so depressing. NPR is naturally going to side with academics. They're not really using a realistic or logical lens to view the situation. I'm a huge liberal, but I do get tired of others in the movement who can't seem to see past their own privilege and shocking ignorance of those who have to work for a living.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the hard time they gave you.
But see how the final version all plays out on the air. It might be better than you thought. Or worse.

What was the old expression? "The best moments ended up on the cutting room floor?"

But in my opinion, don't expect too much from NPR.

A very uptight bunch.

I never understood why they have to borrow from 1930's depression era radio and do stories with all the background noises, as if they are constantly "on location" Sometimes it seems like thy are just honking horns, and banging sticks and pots and pans in a studio for the sake of background noise.

And some of the journalists seem so highbrow, that they strangle and sort of gurgle the last word of every sentence, in a way that is really gross, and that makes me want to cough and clear my throat.

And Garrison Keillor is such a pompous Ass. A real snob. There is no equal to him for talking down to people. Especially when he celebrates birthdays for people long gone, such as Lucy the Cave Woman.

The Car Talk Guys only prove that a wasted degree from MIT can be covered up with a lot of idiotic chuckling.

Fortunately this issue is much bigger than NPR, and will involve both sides of the Aisle when Student Loan debt is past a Trillion and someday possibly doubles credit card debt.

You might not like Bill O'Reilly, but Bill O'reilly told Terry Gross off once when she tried to pull a hatchet job on him. He had NPR's number.

But NPR definitely has an agenda.

John in Boston said...

I don't share the assessments of NPR that Anonymous or Liz each hold, and so I can say that I'm *truly* shocked, discouraged, and disappointed by Ms. Martin's attitude and purpose.

It goes to illustrate that there is really no widespread sympathy or empathy for the indentured educated class on the part of the broader society. This removes all doubt, for me, that we are up against an "individual choice, individual responsibility" mentality that doesn't connect the issue with the clear decline of The American Dream, regardless of how anyone may wish to define that.

Anonymous said...

The Washington Post owns Kaplan University, one of the 30 for profit schools caught in illegal practices. It is doubtful that the Washington Post will publish anything that make it look party to over burdening students with useless and unrespected degrees.

Cryn Johannsen said...

I am aware that the Post owns Kaplan, and have written about it extensively. But part of being a watchdog entails calling people out like Ms. Singletary. She is read widely inside the Beltway and portrays things in a highly problematic light. That's why it matters. I also think it's enormously troubling that you seem to dismiss students and claim they have "useless degrees." Who are you to make such a claim?

Anonymous said...

i'm still trying to understand the point of this blog ...

but here's a link to a segment that aired this week regarding the student loan issue:

Cryn Johannsen said...

@Anonymous Sept. 10, oh, really? Because it isn't abundantly clear to you why I'm raising hell, and I guess the people who are aware of the student lending crisis on the Hill, at, etc., their understanding of this problem isn't clear to you either? What about some of the remarks that Pres. Obama has made about the cost of college? Are those unclear to you, too?

Anonymous said...

@ 1:35: Are you nuts? The point of this blog?

Anonymous said...

By 'useless degrees' I did not mean that the subject matter or individual learning is useless, rather that a degree from a school that has been caught conducting unscrupulous practices may be viewed dimly by HR's. This is certainly true for at least one major corporation..IBM or Intel, I do not recall which, that issued a list of over 100 schools for which they will no longer reimburse tuition. That list and those schools have likely made the circuit of major employers.
I would in no way belittle someone who studied in the Fine Arts, Anthropology, Social Work and so on. Only that the schools reputation may make the degree worth less.

Anonymous said...

Hello 1:35, you dirty SOB.
You are not just fucking around with kids in their 20's anymore.

I listened to the sham interview.

You have to be kidding, Mark Kantrowitz sounds like he is reading the whole time.

Martin sounds like she is reading her lines too.

It is like someone form upper management told them to "Stay with the script" and not to vary from it.

That is the same thing they tell telemarketers in a boiler room. I know, because I have worked in a telemarketing boiler room. It is a rough, rough place. That was after borrowing tons of money to go to Law School, and because I couldn't find a job in law.

Martin and Kantrowitz sound so lifeless in this interview. Like they are both circling the drain.

Michel Martin said...

Cryn -

We always regret it when a guest feels he or she has a poor experience on our program. We hate for that to happen. We also regret it when we are forced to spike an interview. Both things happened in your case and I feel badly about it.

The problem is that there was a miscommunication between our producers, myself and you about what I had requested and understood about the nature of your participation and your understanding of why you had been booked. It was my desire to interview individuals about their personal experiences with excessive student debt. Your interview was to follow a conversation about the larger issue of student debt, that described just how large the student debt burden has become. You evidently believed you were to speak as an expert or advocate and without any mention of your personal experiences. That's perfectly reasonable but clearly a conflict of intention. It was not what I expected, nor what I had planned for. If we had planned to utilize you as an expert, we would have done far more due diligence about your expertise. Obviously, we could not do that once the interview had begun, especially as you are overseas and we had other interviews scheduled that day. We decided not to use the interview because we felt that the to-ing and fro-ing over your refusal to discuss your own personal story would not be interesting for our listeners or reflect well on the conversation, especially when you disclosed that you don't handle your own finances but leave that to your spouse. I agree that the issue of student debt is an important one and deserves more attention. and as we said, we had one such interview already. But, to be clear, you were not the right guest for that particular program on that particular day and I am sorry we wasted your time.

We have dealt with this issue internally and I hope we have all learned from your unfortunate experience.


Michel Martin
Host, NPR's Tell Me More

Cryn Johannsen said...

Dear Michel,

Thank you for your response above. I am greatly appreciative, and wrote a follow-up post here:

As you can see it is entitled, "Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due." I thought it was important to acknowledge your comments publicly, and let you know that I hope our paths cross again and in a more positive way. Thanks again for clarifying why things turned out the way they did.

I am sure my readers will be appreciative, too.