"Gotcha journalism" is a pejorative term used by media critics to describe interviewing methods that appear designed to entrap interviewees into making statements that are damaging or discreditable to their cause, character, integrity, or reputation. The term is rooted in an assertion that the interviewer may be supporting a hidden agenda, and aims to make film or sound recordings of the interviewee which may be selectively edited, compiled, and broadcast or published in order to intentionally show the subject in an unfavorable light.
The term derives from the word gotcha, a contracted form of "got you", and emerged in the run-up to the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election during an interview of Sarah Palin by Katie Couric.
An earlier example was used by the British Sun newspaper headline during the Falklands War, fought between Great Britain and Argentina, to describe the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano by the British submarine HMS Conqueror on 2 May 1982. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2002/apr/07/pressandpublishing.media
"Gotcha" journalism can be used to get a subject with something genuinely discreditable to hide to reveal wrongdoing;[clarification needed] there can be a fine line between robust and gotcha journalism. Some methods claimed to be gotcha journalism by those involved include moving away from the agreed upon topic of the interview and switching to an embarrassing subject that was agreed to be out-of-bounds and leading the interviewee to discuss it and commit to a certain answer, then, confronting them with prepared material designed to contradict or discredit that position.
Gotcha journalism is often designed to keep the interviewee on the defensive by, for example, being required to explain some of their own statements taken out of context thus effectively preventing the interviewee from clearly presenting their position. The intent of gotcha journalism is always premeditated and used to defame or discredit the interviewees by portraying them as self-contradictory, malevolent, unqualified or immoral.
It has also been used as an excuse to evade a question to which the interviewee does not know the answer, and where their lack of knowledge would make them appear foolish or uninformed.
- 1999 Associated Press article archived at Jefferson City (MO) News Tribune
2004 spotlight article at macmillandictionary.com
2004 article at mikehersh.com
- 2005 article from San Francisco Chronicle
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