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Media Training: Your rights

  June 10, 2024

You are a professional and when you do a media interview, you expect to be treated fairly by the journalist interviewing you.  You each have a job to do.  The journalist wants information and you provide it.  It could be a softball interview where everyone leaves happy.  Your business is shown in a positive light and the audience benefits in some way.  They could use the practical information you provide, or they are touched by your story, or they are moved to take action.  The journalist is a conduit between you and your community.  Producers, reporters, editors and writers are always on the lookout for a good story.  If you can tell that story in a compelling manner, all the better.

Even with the best intentions mistakes happen.  Perhaps they got your website wrong or they left out details you feel are important to the story. These types of issues usually can be easily resolved.  Start by calling whoever interviewed you.  Often corrections are made on the media outlet's website.  You may get them to add the missing story details at this point.  If it's a TV report, that isn't always possible.  There generally is a need to keep stories tight.  But, if there's been a factual error or your sound bite was edited in a way that changes its intended meaning, it requires action.

  • A professional, unbiased journalist will want to get the facts straight and should set things right.
  • If you encounter something different, kick your concerns up the ladder to an Editor, News Director or Bureau Chief.  In my role as a network Bureau Chief, I was occasionally, on the receiving end of angry phone calls from interview subjects.  It was my responsibility to look into the matter.  When we got it wrong, we corrected it.  But if we got it right, we stuck by it.
  • Your next option is to have your lawyer contact the media outlet's legal department.  This doesn't mean you are planning to sue, but sometimes an attorney to attorney conversation may help. It may not result in a retraction, but a "clarification" may be offered. 
  • If your business is being negatively impacted or your reputation has been damaged, you might consider posting a video of your own on social media.  Or, contact another media outlet to see if they are interested in your original story.  You get a second chance to reach an audience.  

The best way to protect yourself is to be clear before any interview.  Let the journalist know you plan to record the interview on your mobile phone so you have an accurate record of it.  You might ask a colleague to sit in when the interview takes place.  Check other pieces done by the reporter prior to your interview, so you have a feel for his/her approach to stories.  Offer suggestions for visuals if your story is for TV.  That way you can have input into how the story will look.  

Not all journalists set out to get a "gotcha" sound bite.  That said, if one falls into their lap, it's generally fair game.  That's why you need to fully prepare for every media interview. Don't just wing it.  Think out what you want to convey and how you might respond if you are thrown a curveball.  It could be as simple as being asked to give your opinion on a competitor's problems.  Don't bite,  If your goal in doing media interviews is to get attention for your business, why waste any of your interview talking about someone else's business? 

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