The Bob Costas interview of Jerry Sandusky (clipped at the end of this post) alerted me to a hazard of my profession: watching too many newstainment clips. Too many Bill O’Reilly-Bernard Goldberg bonhomie segments; too many Martin Bashir scoldings; too many Jon Stewart snarkfests.
So I almost forgot how good regular old TV news can be. Costas’s interview last night on NBC’s “Rock Center” provided a stellar example.
The Sandusky “get” on its own merits was enough reason to watch. So were the creepy revelations from the interview: that Sandusky denied sexual contact with children but conceded that he’d “horsed around” with kids, that he’d “showered after workouts” with kids, that he’d “touched their legs.” Another big one: Sandusky said that Penn State coach Joe Paterno had never approached him about his conduct.
Yet the tone put this interview into a special category. Over nearly ten minutes Costas managed to be: prepared without being formulaic or rigid, polite without being nice, and skeptical without being prosecutorial.
There were a couple moments when Sandusky’s answers clearly prompted disbelief from Costas. Instead of declaring his position on the matter, Costas packed it into a question. For example, Costas asked about the janitor who said he witnessed Sandusky giving oral sex to a youngster. Sandusky denied the allegation, prompting this question from Costas:
How could somebody think they saw something as extreme and shocking as that when it hadn’t occurred and what would possibly be their motivation to fabricate it?
Sandusky said Coastas would have to ask them.
Costas continued: “It seems that if all of these accusations are false, you are the unluckiest and most persecuted man that any of us has ever heard about.”
Sandusky: “I don’t know what you want me to say. I don’t think that these have been the best days of my life.”