Questions For Deborah Solomon



What’s up?

Not too much, you?

Not a lot, kinda full from lunch. Do you like lunch?

Lunch is good. How ’bout them Niners?

I know! Damn.

Yeah, really.



I am, of course, awkwardly mocking a Q&A with UC President Mark Yudof printed in the New York Times Magazine, the latest installment in the always-glib-but-rarely-informative Questions For series. Maybe it’s just the inane answers that make it so much worse, or the fact that Yudof comes off as the asshole that I’ve heard he is, but I found this article depressing and insulting at the same time.

On the one hand, sure, Yudof could have answered a little better, cleared up a few things, but the avoidy-ness is something that we’ve come to expect from him.

I’m disappointed in Deborah Solomon, the “reporter” known for asking tough questions and cutting through niceties. What the hell were you trying to do with this?

Here’s an excerpt of the hard-hitting interview:

DS: The word “furlough,” I recently read, comes from the Dutch word “verlof,” which means permission, as in soldiers’ getting permission to take a few days off. How has it come to be a euphemism for salary cuts?

MY: Look, I’m from West Philadelphia. My dad was an electrician. We didn’t look up stuff like this. It wasn’t part of what we did. When I was growing up we didn’t debate the finer points of what the word “furlough” meant.

What is the point of this? She doesn’t press a single one of his cagey answers, she doesn’t ask anything that he hasn’t already sent out in an e-mail to the students. She did this whole interview with one of California’s most powerful and controversial figures, in the middle of an education crisis, without asking the most important question: What have you done that makes you worth the taxpayers’ money?

As sorry as I feel for the guy, only making $540,000. Still, I can think of better uses for the money than to pay him to (in his own words) “smile,” “shake hands,” and “tell jokes.”

As a former UC reporter and student, someone who would have killed for the chance to interview Yudof and make him account for his misdeeds, I simply couldn’t believe that somebody with Solomon’s access couldn’t put it to a better use than to perpetuate her reputation as a tactless cut-to-the-chase interviewer.

I mean, come on.

Compound that with the multiple accusations from Tim Russert, Amy Dickinson and Ira Glass – all people who I respect significantly more than Solomon – that she would rewrite questions after the fact and juxtapose answers so as to completely change the gist of the interview. And really, how terrible do you have to be to get Ira Glass mad at you?

I think the question to ask is really what Solomon is contributing – to society, to journalism, to the quest for truth and justice, whatever – with these inane interviews.

As far as I’m concerned, if this is the track she’s going to continue to take, she doesn’t deserve one of the coveted paychecks that history books say reporters used to receive.

Really Deborah, if you don’t feel like you have a responsibility as a journalist, move on. I know plenty of people ready to take your place.


And by the way, this is really cute.

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3 Responses to Questions For Deborah Solomon

  1. llegs says:

    hear hear! and that is cute.

  2. Razi says:

    What an infuriating interview! His answers made him sound like that same generation of people in powerful positions that Bush came from: the “I’m ignorant and proud of it, and have no answers for the questions that matter” elite.

  3. Mark says:

    I read her column religiously but it’s a guilty pleasure, like slowing down to look at a car accident. She is obnoxious, disrespectful of nearly everyone–including, memorably, buffoonishly pushing Stephen Hawking on what his IQ is–and hugely pretentious, all rolled into one. Gawker recently, and humorously, pointed out that lately her questions are taking up more column space than her subject’s answers.

    I realize the Times is in big trouble, and needs to retain as many readers as possible, but I don’t feel Solomon’s self-promoting, sensationalized and ridiculously combative columns are the answer. Sure, people read them–people also check out a sleazily dressed girl at a bar, but that doesn’t mean you’re taking her home to Mom. People read Solomon, but from what I hear, very few people respect her.

    At the very least, The Times should open a comments section below the on-line version of her column. They won’t, I don’t think, as they know what kind of responses would be posted. Here’s guessing they break 9:1 telling them to get rid of the mean-spirited hag.

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