Annabel Crabb has sent a withering takedown of criticism of Kitchen Cabinet to Melbourne writer Tim Dunlop on his blog, and giving consent for it to be published.
In his original review Dunlop raised questions about political journalism and framing Liberal Leader Peter Dutton in “a flattering light.”
Although it’s a long read, Crabb notes while she is open to analysis she was also was subjected to “a full week of outrage preceded the Dutton episode, during which I was called everything from a lightweight to a racist to a simpering fool, in a frenzy of pre-broadcast speculation…”
However she outlines errors in the critique by Dunlop and outlines the purpose of the ABC series, noting that smart readers can make up their own mind about the subject’s degree of success.
“In this programme, I happen to do it by making it tonally awkward for a hardened political interviewee to deflect a question they otherwise wouldn’t answer,” she writes. “I bring them a dessert. I don’t carry a notebook. I give them something to do with their hands to distract them. I bring four cameras so we don’t have to stop and start. And I use every ounce of my skill to draw them in and make them feel like this is a real conversation, not an interview. That’s why people tell me things. I don’t do it this way because I love flouncing around with a basket; I do it because it works.”
She also addressed some other aspects of production….
The farm venue was suggested by Peter Dutton’s office and accepted by us. The alternative was an apartment in Brisbane, and yes of course we know that it’s a flash apartment. But also, we have so much gear that space and accessibility and parking is better for us every time. Plus shooting outside cities is always preferable because you get nicer pictures. Pictures matter in TV. I didn’t know about the tree before we went; none of my crew did. But the sequence we shot there was valuable, even though it was a pfaff to get to.
Up to the host. I mention that I’m a pescetarian, but they’re welcome to cook their favourite dish and if that includes meat, I’ll eat round it. That’s the extent of the discussion. Usually the host will cook something that I will eat. I choose my own dessert and it’s a surprise for them.
“What stipulations, if any, are made about questions? To what extent is the general subject matter flagged with the subject and their office?”
In this instance? None, and to no extent. I had no discussions about subject matter or questions before the Dutton interview. Why not? Because he’s the Opposition Leader and he’s a big boy. Also, he’s been clear in the past that he wants to soften his image. I’m perfectly aware that that is what he wants from the episode. And that gives me immense range in terms of what I can ask him. It means that if he refuses to answer, he looks like the weirdo, not me.
Crabb reveals sometimes she will canvass delicate areas in advance, and cites examples with Linda Burney (S7) and Tanya Plibersek (S1)
What gets cut out?
Heaps of stuff. Any political grandstanding hits the cutting room floor immediately. Often, we have to lose interesting stuff too. It’s a half hour show. But we never edit in a way that changes the essential balance of a subject’s remarks over the course of an interview. With Dutton, for example, if he had responded to my question about (First Nations) culture with a response about FN culture, we would never have cut that out in order to make his remarks about “squalor” more brutal. This is about ensuring that I can never be accused of taking an interviewee out of context. I never do. We don’t edit to make people look good or bad. We edit to show them as they really were on the day of the interview.