Posts Tagged ‘media training disasters’
Russell Westbrook, an All-Star point guard with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, recently gave an interview that didn’t go so well.
As you’ll see in the clip below, he gave the same defiant answer repeatedly: “Good execution.” He gave that answer even when it didn’t answer the question. And, in a moment of candor that spokespersons occasionally fantasize about, he flat out told one reporter, “I don’t like you.”
Westbrook’s interview seems even stranger in light of the fact that his team won the game—and he had a terrific night.
To see how fans were reacting to Westbrook’s passive-aggressive interviewing approach, I delved into the comments section of several sports websites. It turns out that many fans defended Westbrook. Their argument went as follows: We hate the media, Westbrook gave them a taste of their own medicine, and good for Westbrook for doing so.
I think they’re wrong. Representing your brand well matters whether you’re a corporate vice president, a political candidate, or a professional athlete. And Westbrook made the fundamental error of forgetting that his audience wasn’t the reporter, but the people watching the interview—you know, the fans who pay his salary.
To get another perspective, I contacted a friend of mine, the communications director for a major sports team who deals with top-level athletes every day. He wrote:
“We grow any of the games we work in through young kids, and for them to see this does not help the game…I want players in my room respecting the media and the media respecting the players and the job they do. It is my job to keep that scale as even as possible throughout the season. Dealing with players, their goal is to make their team and themselves look the best they can, both on and off the field.”
If he had a player interact with a reporter the same way Westbrook did, he would do the following:
“First thing I’m doing is having the conversation with my player as to what set them off to do so. After that talk, I would speak to the writer if I feel it is necessary to make sure they know there is a problem brewing. After that, I judge whether it would be best to bring a writer in to speak to the player one-on-one to talk it out, with everything off the record.”
He also says he wouldn’t have allowed the interview to continue for as long as Westbrook’s:
“I’m cutting it off…immediately, when I see what is going on and not allowing reporters to continue to ask questions. The player wants it to be a spectacle to embarrass the reporter and have people talking about it. The reporter(s) want to keep going because it allows him/her to continue to provoke the same answer which makes the player look ridiculous. So, I’m cutting it off immediately and allowing the reporter to write about me cutting it off if he wants. Then, I’m setting up this meeting between the player and this reporter he supposedly hates to clear this thing before it becomes more and more of a spectacle.”
And in case you’re still not convinced that athletes should take their media interactions more seriously, these final lines should make them think again:
“From the management side, I’ve seen it happen when the attitudes of players prevents teams from ‘investing’ in them. As important as it is to compete on the playing field/ice/gym, when it comes time to sign a free agent or make a trade, all of these things go into an organization’s evaluation process. Is ‘said player’ worth disrupting the current team?”
Tags: media training disasters, Russell Westbrook, sports
Posted in Media Training Disasters | 5 Comments »
If you’re a reporter and want to write about an elected official, do you need to obtain permission from the politician in advance to include their name in your news story?
Of course not. You could imagine the chilling effect on journalism if people elected to positions of power could shut down media inquiries they didn’t like by denying the reporter permission to write about them.
Kirby Delauter, a county council member in Frederick County, Maryland, doesn’t appear to agree. He took to his Facebook page yesterday to denounce a local reporter, Bethany Rodgers of The Frederick News-Post, because he “did not authorize any use of my name.” He also included this rather menacing line: “You need to know who you’re dealing with.”
To cap off his post, Mr. Delauter threatened to sue her: “Use my name again unauthorized and you’ll be paying for an attorney.”
I’d like to give Mr. Delauter the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that he doesn’t have a lot of media experience and truly believes that he has the right to prevent a journalist from using his name without his authorization. Therefore, I want to use this post to write something productive.
Sir, you have no legal standing on which to sue a journalist for using your name without authorization. In order for a public figure to prove libel, you would need to show that Ms. Rodgers knew her statements to be false or had a reckless disregard for the truth. That’s a legal standard that’s extremely difficult to meet.
As you’ve seen from the reaction to your Facebook post (which appears to have been deleted), you only helped to attract more attention to Ms. Rodgers’ original article; among others, The Washington Post has now helped to make this a national story.
But you’re not without rights.
First, if Ms. Rodgers (or any other journalist) is going to write a story about you with or without your participation in it, you might consider granting her an interview—or at least providing her with a short written statement. Although it might seem paradoxical to exert control by speaking to a reporter you view as unfair, it may not be. The reason for that is something I call “The Rule of Thirds.” I made a video about that here.
If Ms. Rodgers is being unfair, as you assert, this post offers you seven things you can do to respond to a negative news story. To protect yourself, you can insist on only communicating in writing (so you can maintain a paper trail) or recording your interviews (some states require two-party notification before recording, so just tell her you’re recording). You can even call into question her fairness as a reporter by offering evidence that proves she has “lied,” as you stated she did. What you can’t do—at least not credibly—is threaten to sue her for mentioning your name.
There’s one other thing I’d ask you to consider. Whether you like it or not, The Frederick News-Post is going to continue to cover you. Therefore, think about what’s going to serve your interests over the months and years to come. It might be that reducing the antagonism between you and the newspaper serves you best; if so, you might consider requesting a meeting with Ms. Rodgers and her editor to discuss your complaints with the paper’s coverage, point out any inaccuracies, and establish a more productive future working relationship.
The point is that you do have some control here—but it needs to be exercised the right way to be effective. Good luck.
Facebook screenshot via Kai Hagen; photo from Kirby Delauter’s public campaign page.
UPDATE: JANUARY 7, 2015, 10PM
Mr. Delauter issued the following apology today to The Frederick News-Post. It strikes the right tone, appears authentic, and reflects an appropriate amount of self-awareness. It should help put this issue behind him.
“The first amendment is alive and well in Frederick County. As a public figure working to maintain and improve the county, it can be very frustrating to feel misrepresented or misinterpreted by a local media outlet.
Over my career I have fired off my fair share of angry e-mails, which in hindsight I wish I hadn’t. I can’t think of one that had a positive effect. Usually, they only served to escalate the conflict. I thought I had long ago learned the lesson of waiting 24 hours before I hit the send key, but apparently I didn’t learn that lesson as well as I should have.
Of course, as I am an elected official, the Frederick News-Post has the right to use my name in any article related to the running of the county — that comes with the job. So yes, my statement to the Frederick News-Post regarding the use of my name was wrong and inappropriate. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.
I got elected to serve all the citizens of northern Frederick County, Democrats as well as Republicans. I look forward to the local papers covering my effort in that regard.”
Tags: Bethany Rodgers, Kirby Delauter, media training disasters, politics, Public Relations
Posted in Media Training Disasters | 16 Comments »
Florida Governor Rick Scott failed to take the stage for several minutes during a live gubernatorial debate earlier this month against his opponent, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Why? According to the moderators, Scott refused to debate due to a small fan placed beneath Crist’s lectern, which may have violated the debate’s prohibition against “electronic devices.”
For four minutes, Crist benefitted from the optics of appearing on stage alone and an opponent who refused to show up due to the presence of a small fan. Sure, he may have broken the debate rules, but the specific violation struck many people as petty and unimportant. The sublimely ridiculous political moment instantly became the stuff of ridicule, launching a #fangate hashtag on Twitter that trended nationally.
When he finally walked onto the stage and was asked why he refused to join the debate for the first four minutes, Governor Scott gave an answer that bordered on incomprehensible.
”Well, I waited until we figured out whether he was going to show up. He said he wasn’t going to come to the uhhh, he was, he said he was going to come to the debate, so why come out until he’s ready?”
That not-ready-for-primetime response solidified the moment, confirming for many viewers and members of the press that Mr. Scott was the victim of his own intransigence.
But that storyline, compelling as it was, may also be false. According to CNN:
“[Scott’s] campaign said later that it was actually Crist who was in the midst of intense behind-the-scenes conversations with debate organizers over whether his fan would be allowed — and that Scott was just waiting to see what happened. He hadn’t realized that Crist had gone on stage.
Scott said on CNN’s ‘The Situation Room’ with Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that he had been waiting in a trailer for debate officials to tell him to head to the stage. ‘They said he wasn’t going to show up, that he was balking about his fan,’ Scott said, adding that he didn’t care if Crist had a fan, a microwave or a humidifier.
The organizers of the October 15 debate backed up Scott’s version of events Thursday, saying Crist clearly broke the rules — and ignored instructions given an hour before start time — by having an aide place the fan on stage.”
It’s worth reading the entire CNN story; the timeline suggests that Mr. Scott’s version of events is true and that he had never told event organizers he wouldn’t debate.
Assuming that’s true, the quickly formed narrative about this debate—that Rick Scott refused to debate due to a fan—was false.
But political watchers know that facts and narratives don’t always line up, and it’s the responsibility of Mr. Scott and his advisors to ensure that he’s where he’s supposed to be at the moment he’s supposed to be there. That reporters predictably latch onto these types of stories is obvious; it’s the campaign’s job not to give them the opportunity.
“Fangate” was not a failure borne of stubbornness, as the media suggested. But it did represent disorganization and a lack of vigilance (did no one have a television monitor on behind the scenes, on which they would have seen Crist standing alone at the lectern?), and as a result, this debate will be remembered as the debate at which Mr. Scott appeared to refuse to debate because of a fan.
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Tags: Charlie Crist, debate, Florida, media training disasters, Rick Scott
Posted in Election 2014 | 1 Comment »
There were many media disasters from which to choose this month.
I could have chosen NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference, which failed to satisfy anyone. I could have selected President Obama, who gave his critics easy ammunition by saying, “We don’t have a strategy” to deal with ISIS. Finally, I could have named this Toronto school board trustee for delivering an illogical interview.
Despite good arguments for all of those media moments, I kept coming back to an interview Mike Tyson conducted with a Canadian news anchor earlier this month (this monthly feature was always intended to highlight the serious, the sublimely ridiculous, and everything in between).
According to Mashable, Tyson was “in Canada to promote his one-man show,” during which time he met with and endorsed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (who subsequently dropped out of the race due to serious health issues). But when Tyson sat down with Nathan Downer on Toronto’s CP24, one of the host’s questions upset him—and he looked like he might take a chunk out of Downer’s ear.
Warning: This video contains numerous obscenities and one scary-looking tattoo.
The question that sparked Tyson’s expletive-laden tirade was this:
“Some of your critics would say, ‘This is a race for mayor, we know you’re a convicted rapist, this could hurt his campaign.’ How would you respond to that?”
Those “some say” questions—which can be journalistically dubious—are ripe for rebuttals that challenge the premise. Tyson did exactly that, beginning his answer reasonably:
“I don’t know who said that. You’re the only one I know who said that.”
But then Tyson lost it, calling the anchor a “piece of shit,” saying “fuck you” on live television twice, and threatening the host when reminded he was on live TV (“What are you going to do about it?”).
Tyson should expect to face questions about that conviction, which can be easily deflected (“I paid my debt to society, have been out of prison for almost 20 years, and am here to talk about my one-man show.”).
Instead, interviews like this one show that he still has the same volatile temper he’s always had—the same one that led to charges of domestic abuse in his marriage to Robin Givens, a rape conviction, and being disqualified from a heavyweight title fight for biting off a piece of his opponent’s ear.
Despite all of those incidents, Tyson has enjoyed an improbable comeback in recent years, including an HBO airing of his one-man show and a scene-stealing cameo in The Hangover (below).
I’ve always had reservations about the wisdom of Mike Tyson receiving a full Hollywood comeback; my uneasiness aside, “Brand Tyson” has been doing quite well in recent years. But this interview might—hopefully, in my view—slow his public return to favor just a little.
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Tags: media disaster, media training disasters, Mike Tyson, Nathan Downer
Posted in Media Training Disasters | 1 Comment »
Reader Bob LeDrew recently made me aware of a media interview featuring a Toronto School Board trustee named Sam Sotiropoulos. (By the way, what is the deal with Toronto public officials lately?)
Mr. Sotiropoulos generated some controversy late last month when he sent out the following tweet:
Shortly thereafter, a reporter from Canada’s Global News interviewed Mr. Sotiropoulos about his incendiary comments. The interview was an utter disaster and is worth watching in its entirety.
As I watched this interview—which lasted almost nine excruciating minutes—I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t he walk away already? Does this man not have feet?”
It’s clear that Sotiropoulos thought his rapier wit was winning the interview, but he appeared blithely unaware that he was coming across as a smug dope who failed to score a single point.
Among the tactics he tried were:
- Repeating the same talking point almost verbatim numerous times
- Giving the reporter the silent treatment
- Denying that he had sent another controversial tweet that had appeared in his timeline
- Telling the reporter that while he could speak about his current tweet, he couldn’t discuss previous and related tweets he had sent
- Attacking the reporter for suggesting that there is a stigma attached to mental illness
- Claiming that his tweet was not expressing an opinion, but merely reserving the right to “form” an opinion
His last point was particularly disingenuous. He refused to acknowledge that his inference that transgenderism may be a form of mental illness could reasonably be read as a suggestion that it is. (For the record, the American Psychiatric Association ruled that “gender dysphoria” is not, by itself, a mental illness.) Using his logic, it would be completely fair of me to tweet the following:
But doing so would be a smear, and Satiropoulos would have a right to be upset at my inference. (I preceded and followed that tweet, sent yesterday, with an explanation that it was intended only as part of this story, not as a personal attack.)
Mr. Satiropoulos is entitled to his views, but he shouldn’t have sent his tweets if he was unprepared to defend them. For the same reason, he shouldn’t have agreed to an on-camera interview; a written statement would have served him far better.
Instead, he agreed to an on-camera interview without a time limit, during which he committed at least half a dozen interview errors. But of all his interview sins, the one that demonstrated his lack of judgment most is that he stood there like a punching bag instead of having the sense to end the interview and walk away.
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Tags: LGBT, media training disaster, media training disasters, Sam Sotiropoulos
Posted in Media Training Disasters | 5 Comments »
This was the worst media apology I’ve ever seen.
L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling—who was caught on tape telling his girlfriend not to be photographed or attend basketball games with black people—attempted to apologize during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Sterling did apologize. But he also took the opportunity to attack Magic Johnson for getting “those AIDS” and made new racist remarks by claiming that wealthy African Americans “don’t want” to help their own communities like Jews do.
I already deconstructed Sterling’s pathetic interview earlier this month. But as I’ve continued to think about this case, one additional point is worth making.
It’s important to remember that the comments that originally got Sterling into trouble were covertly recorded during a private conversation. Many public figures spanning the full ideological spectrum—though disgusted by his comments—were deeply concerned about the privacy issues in this case.
Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote:
“Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime.”
Conservative pundit Bernard Goldberg made a similar point:
“I’m wondering who else among us has said things in the privacy of our homes that would get us in trouble if somebody recorded them and made our remarks public.”
And liberal comedian Bill Maher agreed:
“Last week when President Obama was asked about the Sterling episode, he said, ‘When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, just let them talk.’ But Sterling didn’t advertise. He was bugged. And while he may not be worth defending, the 4th Amendment is.”
But with his interview, Sterling erased that entire argument.
Sterling could have argued that because his comments were made in private and (possibly) illegally taped, he shouldn’t have to sell his team or endure a lifetime ban. But since he willingly made additional racist remarks during his very public televised interview with Anderson Cooper, that line of argument evaporated.
Sterling’s decision to do this interview without the presence of legal or public relations counsel was stunningly reckless. That he chose to do it at all sealed his fate as a racist.
Tags: Bernard Goldberg, Bill Maher, Donald Sterling, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, media training disaster, media training disasters
Posted in Media Training Disasters | Please Comment »
Many people have fantasized about their opponents in the media being put out of business. But most of them have the good sense not to give voice to their dark wishes.
That didn’t stop Rutgers University Athletic Director Julie Hermann from publicly fantasizing about the demise of her media nemesis, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. According to Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi (and originally reported by Rutgers University student website Muckgers):
“If they’re not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they’re not selling ads – and they die,” Hermann told the Media Ethics and Law class. “And the Ledger almost died in June, right?”
“They might die again next month,” a student said.
“That would be great,” she replied. “I’m going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive.”
Now that’s a new one. Giving such a juicy headline in a quote about not giving the newspaper a headline?
Worse than the quote itself is Ms. Hermann’s timing. Last week, the Star-Ledger laid off 167 staffers. That a local college official appears to be dancing on their professional graves during a tough economy makes her look vindictive, petty, and small.
Worse yet, Ms. Hermann’s response isn’t much better than her original comments.
According to The Detroit News:
“The university said in a statement that Hermann’s remarks to a media ethics and law class in February came before she knew about deep layoffs at the Star-Ledger…Rutgers said her statements were “intended to give the students some understanding of the challenges she has faced” and were not expected to be made public. She did not apologize.”
Ridiculous. That Ms. Hermann had any expectation for privacy in a public setting is ludicrous. (How many times have I written about this already?)
Plus, what kind of message is that to send to a media ethics class—that if you don’t like the coverage you’re receiving, you should wish for the news organization’s demise? Ms. Hermann owes the newspaper—along with the men and women who work for it and the students she was lecturing to—an apology.
Thank you to the anonymous tipster who forwarded this story to me. Have a tip? Send it to Contact@MrMediaTraining.com.
Tags: journalism, Julie Hermann, media training disasters, Rutgers, Star-Ledger, Steve Politi
Posted in Media Training Disasters | 1 Comment »
Australian rugby player Andrew Fifita recently made a comment that cost him a four-year, $3.5 million contract ($3.2 million U.S.).
The 24-year-old announced that he would be changing teams, from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. But before he even put on his new uniform, he expressed disloyalty to his new team. Here’s the story via news.com.au:
“On Friday he let slip in an interview that he wished he’d chosen rugby union [a different league] instead. Then yesterday, the Dogs effectively said fine, forget the whole deal.
Oh, the Bulldogs cited a bunch of legalese. But reading between the lines, they appeared to be saying “You’ve got no loyalty? Then we don’t want you.”
What caught my eye were comments made by his teammate, Paul Gallen, who offered this solution:
“I think he’s really going to have to be micromanaged, I really think they have to get him some kind of media training or something.”
The columnist agreed:
“Gallen is right. If Fifita doesn’t have any natural humility, he desperately needs a slick professional to drum it into him.”
Both Gallen and the unnamed columnist have a distorted view of media training.
A media trainer’s job is not to “drum” humility into someone. Good practitioners are not slick professionals who attempt to create personality traits where they do not exist (we can help people emphasize traits they do possess). Doing so would be doomed to failure, as the public can usually tell when someone is faking it.
We can only be successful when working with somewhat self-aware people who have a desire to change. If Fifita is not naturally humble, I would never try an approach intended to make him fake humility.
What would I do? I’d focus on helping him reduce the likelihood of a future “seven-second stray.” I would try to accomplish that by invoking his competitive spirit and analogizing his public comments to rugby. Every time he prevents himself from making a potentially controversial comment, he should award himself a point. Every time he makes one, he should view it as voluntarily allowing the other team to score.
That’s it. No drumming false humility into him. But by getting him to be as competitive with the use of his words as he is during play, it might serve the same purpose—he’d learn to bite his tongue more often, which might result in him genuinely appearing more humble. And it wouldn’t take a “slick” professional to help him do it.
That’s my take. What’s yours? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Tags: Andrew Fifita, media training analysis, media training disasters, sports
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