Here's some tips on interviewing from a profile of Amy Goodman in today's NYT. I am attaching a transcript of Godman's questions below.
New York Times
April 22, 1999
By JOYCE WADLER
It would be nice to say that Amy Goodman, the award-winning Pacifica Radio producer and reporter who uses grant money or her own frequent-flier miles for overseas assignments and who has been beaten and threatened with execution for her reporting of human rights violations, has the universal affection of her colleagues.
The truth is that when Ms. Goodman opens her mouth at a press conference, it is not only the politicians who wish she would shut up.
Take, for instance, a White House briefing some years ago. The Nobel Peace Prize had just been awarded to two people from the Indonesian province of East Timor.
Ms. Goodman, a serious leftist who is not without humor (though after a 20-minute sound bite on the establishment press, you might fear so), rose to ask why President Clinton had not invited the Nobel laureates to the White House and why, in her words, the United States was selling weapons "to one of the worst regimes in the world."
Michael E. McCurry, the White House spokesman at the time, got "really angry," ultimately ignoring her, Ms. Goodman recalls in the station's office on Wall Street.
"Then, when I was walking out, I heard one reporter saying to another, 'Indonesia and East Timor? No thank you,' " Ms. Goodman says.
This didn't bother her, being the odd person at press conference?
"I survived a massacre in which more than 250 people were gunned down," she says. "It doesn't bother me if a few journalists snicker" ...
Ms. Goodman, 42, holds two spots at Pacifica Radio, which is broadcast out of New York as WBAI (99.5 FM)....
Last week, Ms. Goodman won a George M. Polk reporting award, which she shared with her co-producer, Jeremy Scahill. Their story detailed how the Chevron Corporation's involvement with the military in Nigeria led to the deaths of two unarmed environmental protesters in that country.
Ms. Goodman gives workshops on "hardball reporting." Example, please.
"You treat politicians no differently than anyone else. You ask serious questions and if you don't get an answer, you ask it again. You don't let the politicians set the agenda. The agenda can be set by reporters, too. If you switch the topic, you might be afraid it is not relevant, but stand firm."
Here's a transcript of Goodman's questions, from the White House web site:
Q: President Clinton's comment of the winning of that Nobel Peace Prize by Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo of East Timor?
Mr. McCurry: Well, the subject of human rights in East Timor has long been a concern of the United States. We've raised this frequently in our meetings with the government of Indonesia. We've been particularly concerned about the outbreak of violence there. Bishop Belo, of course, well-known peace activist, human rights activist, and all of those who attempt to bring a calmer atmosphere to East Timor and bring respect for fundamental human rights are to be congratulated.
Q: Will President Clinton renew -- we hear that Winston Lord has returned from Indonesia and said they will renew their efforts; President Clinton will push for the sale of F-16s to Indonesia when Congress returns in January. I've spoken to both Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo, and they say Clinton is key in self-determination for East Timor. Will he now continue to push for those weapon sales to Indonesia? Jose Ramos Horta says it's like selling weapons to Saddam Hussein.
Mr. McCurry: Well, that's not the view of the United States government. We make arms transfers of that nature when they are in the interest of the United States. Our views on the F-16 transfer are well-known. We have pursued those in the discussions that we've had with the Indonesian government.
Again, our goal is to engage in arms transfers in that region that promotes stability, defense security, not to engage in transfers that would involve anything resembling repression of individual rights.
Q: How does this support democracy when the Clinton administration is pushing weapons to a place that's killed a third of the population in Timor, one of the great genocide of the 20th century?
Mr. McCurry: You don't use F-16s to kill civilians and crackdowns on dissidents.
Q: But you're supporting the military dictatorship by doing it.
Mr. McCurry: You're also advancing U.S. strategic interests in the region.
Q: Will you invite Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo to the White House -- will the President?
Mr. McCurry: I am not aware of any plans for that.
Q: Does the President know or is he curious why the Indonesian -- the Lippo group gave all of that money to Webb Hubbell?
Mr. McCurry: I don't know whether he's curious about that or not.
Q: Mike, there are several questions about that, actually, I have, ad nauseam here. Do you have any totals on how much has been given? And also, the basic principle seems to be that he's getting -- or the Dnc, I guess, is getting money from Indonesia, which would mean that it is coming from outside the U.S.
Mr. McCurry: Not the principle at all. There are individuals who contribute to the Democratic National Committee; the Democratic National Committee does everything required by law to disclose sources of support and, indeed, does something voluntarily to describe sources of support.
Q: Back to the issue of Timor for a second. President Clinton is not only going to push for the F-16s, but also for the restoration of Imet, military training aide. And that was cut off after the massacre of November, 1991, which I [Amy Goodman, WBAI Pacifica] witnessed and survived, where more than 250 Timorese were killed with U.S. weapons. Congress cut it off because they said the human rights situation was so bad. It hasn't improved in these five years -- it's coming up on the 5th anniversary next week. Why is President Clinton considering restoring that military training aide to Indonesia right now?
Mr. McCurry: On the Imet funding I'd really prefer that you get -- they can give you a much better briefing over at the State Department on that. We have raised, as I said earlier, in the meetings we've had at highest levels with the Indonesian government and certainly in most every bilateral session we have our concerns related to human rights in East Timor.
Q: Will President Clinton push for a U.N.-sponsored referendum in East Timor so that the people there can determine their own future?
Mr. McCurry: The President will continue to press our human rights concerns related to East Timor.
Q: Can you clarify my earlier question -- was the President aware that the Indonesians had put Webb Hubbell on retainer?
Mr. McCurry: I don't know the answer to that. I would have to look at that.
Q: Can you find out? I mean, it's quite an unusual sort of thing to hire somebody who resigned from the Justice Department, right?
Daily Press Briefing Friday, October 11, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns
QUESTION: Did Congress cut off military training aid after the November 1991 massacre where the Indonesian military used U.S. M-l6s to gun down more than 250 Timorese? I witnessed it. I survived the massacre, despite the fact that I was beaten by those weapons.
After that, Congress cut off weapons -- cut off military training aid. Now, the State Department is pushing to reinstate it. Bishop Belo said the human rights situation is worse than it's ever been. What's the justification?
MR. BURNS: The justification is that we have many issues to consider in our relationship with the largest Moslem country on earth, and one of the largest and most important countries in East Asia. As I said, that relationship is multi-faceted.
QUESTION: Will President Clinton meet with Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo? Will he invite them to the White House?
MR. BURNS: I don't know that the President has announced any plans to do so. But, as I said, we can congratulate these two men for winning this award. It's an honor to win the Nobel Peace Prize. We hope that the action of conferring the award upon them will lead to a resolution of the problems of East Timor in which the United States does have an interest.
QUESTION: Like what, which country would invade --?
MR. BURNS: Well, again, you know, it's not my practice here at this podium to go into hypothetical scheming about what wars will break out in the future. But all countries have security interests. All countries have to prepare themselves to meet future security concerns, and Indonesia is no exception to that. One should not be surprised by that.
QUESTION: Let me ask you a quick question. The Indonesian military has killed a third of the population of Timor -- 200,000 people -- on November lst, gunned down more than 250 Timorese, one of the smaller massacres in East Timor, using U.S. weapons. What would it take for the U.S. Government to cut off military aid to Indonesia?
MR. BURNS: That question would obviously be a function of a variety of factors, and I guess if you want to engage in this kind of hypothetical thinking, certainly...
MR. BURNS: What I did at the beginning was just to announce that the United States is sending a delegation to observe the elections, led by Brian Atwood, our Administrator for the Agency for International Development.
It is certainly true that in this case, as in all other cases, the United States does not take a position in support of one candidate or another. We are neutral. We're not going to involve ourselves in the political campaign in Nicaragua. That's for the Nicaraguan people to decide on October 20th. That's a very important election.
QUESTION: If I could just follow, how do you square that strict neutrality with remarks that you've made over the past week with respect to one of the candidates? Well, I'll ask that question and then ask if you have remarks regarding the other candidate, just to insure that there's neutrality, I guess. (Laughter) ...
MR. BURNS: The Russian elections were held in June and July of this past summer, and that was a very sensitive time for Russia. And it was important that the United States not publicly endorse one of the candidates or the other.
In the course of many, many days of questioning here, Mike McCurry had questions over at the White House. We said a lot of things about Boris Yeltsin. We said a lot of things about Mr. Zyuganov. In fact, I made several comments very critical of Mr. Zyuganov in the middle of a political campaign, as did other officials of the United States Government.
The fact is that we have views on some of these leaders all around the world -- not just Nicaragua, but others -- and we don't hesitate to make those views known when those view are -- making them known is helpful to the United States of America.
So we took a strictly neutral position in the Russian elections. We take a strictly neutral position in the Nicaraguan elections. We do not wish to interfere. But, when asked, the tradition in our democracy is for government spokespeople to be open with the press corps. I have tried in my two years to be as open as possible. And we have views; we might as well express them. So this does not just pertain to Nicaragua. It pertains to a lot of other countries around the world.
QUESTION: Given that, do you think Soeharto is a good democrat?
MR. BURNS: You know what? I'm not going to answer the question.
QUESTION: You just talked about being open. Why not?
MR. BURNS: I'm as open as I can be and as I wish to be. But what I don't want to do is have -- you know, perhaps one day we can do this, because I think I know where you're coming from. If you'd like to have a briefing where we debate the human rights situation in every country of the world or any country of the world, I'll do it or we'll bring John Shattuck up here, our Assistant Secretary. And we'll have a debate, because this is clearly a debate about human rights issues.
But I don't want to get dragged in this briefing into commenting and describing every world leader. I answered questions about Mr. Ortega, and I stand by the comments that I made. Actually, I think those comments reflect the views of the overwhelming population of this country, because we remember the 1970s and 80s. We remember. We remember anti-American acts; we remember outrages against the American people. And we do believe in redemption, as I said the other day. Redemption can occur in some cases, and let's see if it ever does in this one.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) why not answer the question?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
QUESTION: Since Indonesia is in the news, it's a key issue today, with the Nobel peace prize winners, do you consider Soeharto to be a democrat?
MR. BURNS: And after that, you'll ask me a question about someone else, and all of the sudden this briefing this briefing will have turned into a debate about a particular aspect of our foreign relations, which is human rights.
QUESTION: I won't respond. Could you just say whether Soeharto is a democrat?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to reward you, and I don't want my remarks to be twisted, because I think I know where you're coming from.