I’m Eating a Cookie: An Instant Media Classic

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on November 29, 2010 – 7:02 AM

A health care crisis is brewing in Canada.

Alberta’s hospitals have run out of beds, and the public is upset about long emergency room wait times. One newspaper reported that, “…neither Edmonton nor Calgary had any available neonatal intensive care beds for babies.” The same report said that Edmonton was down to its last bed one day last week.

So if you’re Dr. Stephen Duckett, the CEO of the Alberta government agency responsible for the health of more than 3.5 million Canadians, you probably want to express your unwavering commitment to improving the health care system for all Albertans.

Or you can prioritize a baked good.

This must-see clip is one of the most sublimely surreal media interactions I’ve ever seen:

In just two minutes, Dr. Duckett told reporters he was eating a cookie five times. The video went viral almost immediately and turned the agency into an international laughingstock.

The media want one thing in an ambush: good video. To win in an ambush setting, deny the cameras great video by delivering a calm, clear message aligned with the concerns of the public. Instead of focusing on his cookie, Dr. Duckett could have:

  • 1. Stopped and Commented: Dr. Duckett could have merely said something generic such as, “The health of Albertans is my greatest priority, and none of us will rest until our health services are up to the standards Albertans expect.”
  • 2. Stopped and Deflected: Dr. Duckett could have stopped and directed reporters to the upcoming press conference by saying, “These issues are important, and I’d rather not discuss them on the street. I look forward to answering your questions in 30 minutes at the press conference.”
  • 3. Walked and Deflected: Instead of stopping and deflecting, Dr. Duckett could have deflected while continuing to walk to the other building.

As a result of this video, Dr. Duckett was fired on Wednesday. But perhaps he should be proud. After all, it’s only a matter of time before, “I’m eating a cookie” becomes a popular international catch phrase.


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Comments (6)

  1. By malcolm:

    I have no sympathy for Stephen Duckett as in none whatsoever. He has been asking for this for a long time. But lets face it – the media are the prostitutes of our time. There is no public ‘right to know’ on a moment by moment basis and ‘media training’ is just an entrepreneurial activity by the madames of the media brothels. Stephen D derved everything he got but the media bimbos are diminshed by their performance too.

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    Dear Malcolm,

    Thanks for your comment. I’ve never quite heard my honorable profession described in such terms. I hope you’ll spend a few more minutes looking around the site to get a more complete view of what media trainers do.

    Best wishes,

  3. By Art Aiello:

    I just had an opportunity to view this. Holy cow…videos like this make folks like me feel good, because I doubt I could make so horrible a gaffe.

  4. By Ellie Shuster:

    An update… The Alberta Government has been conducting an inquiry into allegations of queue-jumping in this province. Stephen Duckett was called to testify via Skype from his home in Australia. Behind him, strategically placed, was an open box of fresh-baked cookies. Of course, that was the first thing reported on by the journalists. Gotta give him credit, the man has a sense of humour!

  5. By R. Craigen:

    Hmm. If we leave out the cookie and the man’s dismissive attitude, I’ll say he’s got a point, and he should have stuck with it. “There’s a media scrum on this issue in 30 minutes. Why are you trying to get me to bust loose now? Is it so important that you get a scoop that you insist on jumping the gun and interrupting me as I grab a snack on my way to the very meeting where your questions will be answered? Get in line with everyone else and behave yourselves like real journalists. Stop asking for special treatment.”

  6. By Brad Phillips:

    You raise a good point, but tone matters here. Spokespersons should remember that their audiences aren’t the pesky reporters, but the people at home who expect reasonable answers from the man in charge of their health.

    Thanks for writing!

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