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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Victims field obvious questions

Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been thinking about the standards of television news after violent tragedies. Some of the questions posed to people being interviewed strike me as both non-newsworthy and rude.

For example, how would Miss Manners respond to a question about how parents reacted when told their young child had been murdered? Would ending the interview with, “I’m sorry, but I thought I was talking to a news reporter, not a daytime talk-show host,” be appropriate?

GENTLE READER: Not really. Besides, you intend this as an insult, but the days are long gone when news and entertainment were separated enough to allow each field to look down on the other.

What astonished Miss Manners, when she was a young, intrepid reporter, was how few people in tragic situations simply decline to be interviewed. She understands that some may need public help (in finding a murderer, for example), and that many are too distressed to distinguish between official and media questioning. But it is pitiful to see people squirming under this attention, apparently without realizing the option of refusing.

Furthermore, the ubiquitous question, “How does this make you feel?” is not only intrusive but pointless. However well or badly they articulate it, the victims of tragedy feel terrible. We know that, and should not prod them to declare it.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is the baby shower given for the baby or the parents of the baby?

GENTLE READER: In view of the fact that at the time a shower is given, it is impossible to separate the mother from the baby, Miss Manners is puzzled about why you feel you need to choose. If you must, she would advise choosing the one who has learned to write letters of thanks.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email, dearmissmanners; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.