Are journalists out to get you?

Interview NervesBy Doug Weller

Are journalists out to get you? In my humble opinion, no.

Do some journalists and commentators come with agendas? The answer is probably yes.

Don’t forget that journalists are human beings and have personal opinions on a range of issues. But the vast majority of journalists are simply trying to pull together a story and get it finished by their deadline.

I’ve spoken to many people over the years who think all journalists want to catch them out.

Going into an interview and believing a journalist is going to dud you is a very negative head space. That will work against you in the media process because you will spend your entire time in ‘survival mode’, rather than concentrating on delivering a concise, clear and professional message.

Even if a journalist has a preconceived view before they speak to you, your definite and confident approach can often turn this around.

There are lots of different media formats – and some journalists and commentators use drama to try to boost ratings.  Radio ‘shock jocks’ are an example of this. But they have a transparent style so you should know what to expect.

Understanding the program’s format and interviewer’s style prior to conducting the interview is extremely important. Preparation is the key. Go in with your eyes wide open.

It’s up to you to develop and deliver messages that make your point.

Unfortunately there is a long line of ‘train wreck interviews’. An example is then rookie Senator, Ricky Muir’s interview with veteran journalist, Mike Willisee. Muir appeared unprepared and ill-equipped to handle this media interview.

In all the years I have covered stories for various news organisations, I never once left the office with the intention of stitching somebody up or pushing my own barrow.

I simply wanted to get a clear understanding of the issues and report them in a fair and balanced way. This meant I relied on my own research and the information I received before and during interviews from interviewees.

What do journalists want? They want to understand the issue completely and be able to conduct a sensible interview that works for them.

One of the biggest pitfalls when interacting with journalists is not being clear about your issue, or your messages.

When you speak to journalists they are generally going to quote you. If you haven’t prepared adequately you can get caught out.

Make sure you have your facts straight. Know why you are doing the interview. What’s the point? Where’s the value?

Sure, there may be some who don’t follow the rule book. But I truly believe that most reporters are fair and take their role seriously. They want to get it right.

Here are my major points for achieving a positive media outcome no matter what the issue:

• Interact with the journalist in a clear and positive way
• Ensure the journalist has all the facts but don’t overload them with material
• Be very clear about the messages you wish to deliver
• Deliver them in a clear, jargon free, credible way
• When the journalist hangs up the phone or walks out the door, make sure they are very clear about the facts of the issue and your messages