Is it acceptable and appropriate that Governor Cuomo was interviewed by his brother Chris during his appearance on CNN? Should these interviews have been passed on to another anchor? Would it matter if the fraternal banter that audiences have loved and appreciated was lost?
Credibility is difficult to gain and easy to lose, for the Cuomo brothers it is something essential to both their respective fields of work. Andrew a politician and Chris a journalist, both rely on the public for their work, and to be successful, people need to be confident they can rely on them. This is why when Chris interviewed his brother on CNN; it could have been seen as crossing a fine line. When in a professional environment it is difficult to be fully impartial and ethical, especially when interacting with family members. It is not impossible rather it is situational, as in one circumstance the tone of an interview may need to be professional, and in another, the tone could be relaxed with a more of a focus on entertainment.
One of the most important aspects of being a journalist is being transparent. Chris illustrates this, as he does not try to hide the fact that Andrew and himself are related. Chris’ interview with his brother has a lighter tone to it, Andrew is not involved in some scandal, with Chris looking to bail him out by interviewing him. The interactions between the brothers were more so informal. For example, both siblings are looking to use brotherly banter to entertain and inform people about COVID-19. However, if it were a situation where Andrew was being interviewed to answer for his actions, it would be inappropriate if Chris were the interviewer. It would be difficult for Chris to be impartial in this tense situation. For the public to see Chris as a credible source for information, they would need to see him as a neutral party. Therefore, if Chris ever did conduct a more professional interview with his brother, viewers would feel that Andrew is getting off easy with his brother interviewing him.
Pech and Leibel describe how there is an unspoken agreement between mainstream journalism and the public, to have rational and discourse on local, state, and, federal governments (Pech & Leibel, 2006). This agreement looks into what mainstream journalism reports, how it is to be reported, the overall goal of the institution of this journalistic output, and the audience (Pech & Leibel, 2006). Chris by interviewing his brother goes against the agreement of how journalism is reported, as he cannot be neutral when interviewing a member of his family.
Ultimately, the Cuomo brothers bring great entertainment value during a pandemic. Dependent on what Chris is interviewing his brother on, it should be acceptable for him to interview his brother. If it were a serious situation that required absolute neutrality, for example, Andrew addressing a scandal, then it would be best if a journalist other than his brother interviewed him, to avoid a conflict of interest. In this case, the interviews conducted by Chris were light-hearted, the brothers were there to inform and entertain people. While the unsaid agreement pointed out by Pech and Leibel is important, it is too black and white, not applicable to the very grey situation of the Cuomo brothers. Journalism aims to provide people with information, it also exists to entertain people, much news is delivered and consumed through the Internet, for traditional forms of journalism like television-based news channels to stand out, they need to bring something different to the table, like an entertainment factor. If it is possible to achieve a balance between entertainment and professionalism, there should be no issue with Chris and Andrew Cuomo engaging with the audience entertainingly along with fraternal banter
Pech, G., & Leibel, R. (2006). Writing in Solidarity: Steps Toward an Ethic of Care for Journalism. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 21(2–3), 141–155. https://doi.org/10.1080/08900523.2006.9679730