VLAD TV’s four-part interview with Korean-American artist Jay Park demonstrates the utter failure of western media to properly and respectfully interview those whom they see as part of K-Pop.
It is clear within the first two minutes of the first part of Jay Park’s interview with “VladTV” that it is an utter failure. Not because of Park, but because of the interviewer.
The person, called Vlad, who remains unseen but heard by the camera, meanders from awkward question (“Are your parents born in Korea? Er, um are they second generation…?) to grossly tone death (“Do they have thick accents?”) that neglected to tell a story of Jay Park as an individual and as an artist. The reason for the failure is simple: Vlad failed to follow the basic tenets of journalism.
At its core, journalism is storytelling. A journalist gathers information from different sources and are suppose to compose an unbiased article that informs, entertains, inspires, and engages the reader or in this case, the viewer.
However, as many in the comments section say, the interview was awkward at best with Jay Park providing very workable information but getting little back from Vlad but mono-syllable responses before he moves to the next question. It is clear that Vlad did not adequately prepare or research who and what Jay Park does.
In Ann Friedman’s article “The art of the interview, asking the hard questions about asking the hard questions,” in the Columbia Journalism Review, Freidman notes that journalist needs to know their subject first and foremost.
Now, this does not mean having their phone number or becoming acquainted with their friends and family. Instead, it refers to being familiar with the subject’s work, history, and current projects. Or as Columbia University has under their “Interview Principles,” “prepare carefully, familiarizing yourself with as much background as possible.”
English journalist Mark Lawson who worked as a BBC reported specializing in art and entertainment presented a few interview tips for BBC’s Journalism Academy. Using a meeting he had with prolific novelist Iain Banks, as a starting point he talks about how he prepares for interviews and creates questions.
Noticing that Banks generally releases a book every year and at times twice a year, he observed an uncharacteristic long gap between publications and asked him about it. Asking the question provided a lengthy and informative answer regarding different projects and life events that probably would not have come about had Lawson not known his subject.
Certainly, Vlad does seem to have a general timeline of Jay Park’s music career and interests including B-Boying, being apart of 2PM, and his Myspace controversy, but poses questions so loose and broad that Park has to choose between rambling or giving a short, curt response. Good questions are the backbone of an interview; they are used as the building blocks for the story the journalist is telling.
In particular, great questions can lead to great answers which can turn into a great conversation which then leads to more information. Vlad did not have good questions. However, given that he did not properly conduct research, how could he create relevant and elucidating questions?
In the second part of the interview, Vlad brings up the rapper’s Myspace comments that described South Korea as “gay.” To be exact, Vlad said, “there were some comments on Myspace that upset a lot of people.”
In response, Jay Park provides a long, indirect, and rambling answer where he summarizes what happened and explains why he wrote the comment and concludes on a positive note of having learned from the experience in just under a minute (00:10 – 00:56). As Park later comments, he has “talked about this like a thousand times,” and as such has already created a formulaic response.
If Vlad had instead started off by prefaced his Myspace comment observation with an intent to question, “I want to ask you about an incident you had involving the social media site Myspace,” for example, it would have allowed him to pace Park’s answer and possibly extract new information on the matter.
Furthermore, following this with a question such as “what was going on at that time that motivated you to write those comments?” could have helped to guide the rapper in forming an answer that addressed and exposed different issues or situations he had at the time. It is painfully clear that Jay Park wants this to be a good interview and is overcompensating with his answers to make up for the lack of direction and intent in the questions asked.
Interviews in the West
The problems that plague Park’s interview with Vlad are also, unfortunately, present in many different interviews that K-pop artists have with western media. Actually, in comparison, Park’s time on VladTV is not that bad — at least they touched on his music. Many of the interviews that BTS had leading up to their American Music Awards appearance were watered down that on the group as quirky and focused on fun-facts rather than seeing them as a musical group.
More often then not, it just seems that in general Western media outlet do not consider K-pop groups to be true “artists.” As such, they are not treated in the same way. Imagine if Jay-Z, a rapper that many see as a legitimate artist, sat down for either of these shows. Would Vlad ask where his parents were born or what his lucky charm is? Maybe, but questions like that would not make up the majority of the interview.
However, what irks me about the Jay Park interview, in particular, is that he is not considered a K-pop artist by anyone familiar with his music. Moreover, he is Korean-American and is releasing music under Roc Nation as an American artist, so why is he being treated like he isn’t from the U.S.? There are many possible reasons why these interviewers view K-pop stars as illegitimate artists or don’t dedicate time to adequately prepare for interviews. Unfortunately, that is a subject that can’t be covered in this article alone.
Nonetheless, just from a journalistic perspective, artists should be given the same respect regardless of our perception of them. Let them talk about music, their songs, and inspirations and take the time to ask questions that allow them to do so.
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