The Bode Miller Interview Debate

by Melissa Brunner

Much of the Olympics chatter after the weekend isn't about the U.S. teams' medal-winning performances, but what happened after two men won medals in the super-G skiing competition. What's turning heads isn't what the athletes said, but, rather, the reporter's questions.

Let's set the stage. Americans Andrew Weibrecht and Bode Miller just finished silver-bronze in the event final. The reporter asked Weibrecht about his stunning finish, then turned the attention to Miller. Miller's brother died last April of an apparant seizure and it was Miller who first mentioned his brother, telling the reporter this Olympics was different because of his brother's passing.

The reporter followed up by asking Miller about what a tough year it's been. He answered. She asked again about his brother. He answered, with tears welling in his eyes. She asked a third question about his brother. Miller tried to compose himself, bowed his head and, after a moment, walked away and kneeled down in tears.

The reporter and NBC have been roundly criticized for pushing too far in the questioning. Even media professionals have said, in varying ways, that perhaps the third question was too much. A respected organization that offers training seminars for journalists even published an article Monday, dissecting the interview and what could be learned from it.

There also was reaction from Miller himself. And, I must say, for all the bad-boy persona Miller has generated over his career, he is taking a very gracious approach. First, consider this tweet he posted in the aftermath: 

Andrew Weibrech, the reporter's questions.
Andrew Weibrecht
Andrew Weibrecht

In addition, Miller also did an in-studio, sit-down interview with NBC later that night. I don't know what was required by contracts or sponsors, but, I imagine, if he was furious, he could have been a no-show.

I do not know the reporter and do not want to judge her. I think most journalists have situations that we may replay afterward and wish we had handled differently. Bode Miller has spoken about his brother's death. At this point in his career, he likely anticipated he would be asked about it - and perhaps that's why he mentioned it first in the interview. He knows fans like to get a sense of what inspires athletes to do what they do. Was the third question too much? I leave that to you to debate, but, for now, it seems Miller is ready to put it behind him and put the focus back on the competition, where it belongs.

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