Reporters Often Know More Than You Think-The Art of the Interview

by admin on March 20, 2017

Subtitles

Do you want to influence the story? Then you need to talk to reporters.

The journalist as digital detective (don’t blow off knowledgeable reporters).

I make it a rule never to try to figure out who is talking to the media.

Your executive is writing friends on social media about how this idiot reporter is investigating the organization when the account is marked public, thus the “idiot reporter” is reading his remarks that day.

Like all good detectives, savvy reporters will already know the answers to some or half the questions they will ask.

Success With the Media

I wrote, “Success With the Media, Everything You Need to Survive Reporters and Your Organization” (available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon at https://amzn.com/151948965X) because I believe that organizations need to look inward to get better media results.

I use contents from the book for this article.

Some believe that we should not talk to reporters. I maintain that not talking leaves you without influence; you are committing yourself to a negative story. The trick is to know how to talk to the media.

This is the eighth in a series of articles on, “The Art of the Interview.”

Author

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising award-winning media relations, radio and television; over fifty national and regional awards. Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study, Johns Hopkins University.

Article

 The Reporter as Digital Detective

Some reporters are extraordinarily good detectives. Today’s journalists are armed with an incredible array of computerized tools.

I have made it quite clear that reporters are fewer in number, and they often don’t have a clue about what they are reporting on. However, there are still journalists who are skilled, aggressive, and computer savvy.

Bloggers and podcasters are some of the smartest fact finders out there. There are times when they are better prepared with facts than mainstream reporters.

Regardless, all have access to a wide variety of public and private databases that provide answers to many questions. Anything that is publicly (and privately) available is stored somewhere.

Today’s search engines are powerful tools bringing research, previous stories, context, and personal information to anyone in seconds.

Private organizations collect information and provide data in a searchable format for a fee. If you have purchased a house or a car, then virtually anything involving that transaction, including your home address, social security number, credit rating, unlisted telephone number, income, family members, and other personal features are probably in somebody’s Web-based service.

Don’t underestimate the ability of a reporter to find information about you and your organization in seconds in private or public records.

Most privacy concerns are directed towards government, but your Internet service provider, Facebook, other social media sites, or Google have more personal data than the National Security Agency ever dreamed of.

Spend time searching for information about your executives and your organization. Use Google Alerts to keep track of what’s being said. Paid media and social media monitoring services are expensive but better.

Let executives know that media has access to the social media accounts of those they are interested in. In a day where the most common computer password is “PASSWORD” or “123456,” do you expect your executives to understand the privacy implications of their Facebook accounts?

Your executive is writing friends on social media about how this idiot reporter is investigating the organization when the account is marked public, thus the “idiot reporter” is reading his remarks that day.

Reporters will search databases before coming to you with questions. In addition, most negative news stories stem from employees or detractors providing internal documentation. Therefore, reporters may be very prepared before they pick up the phone.

Like all good detectives, savvy reporters will already know the answers to some or half the questions they will ask. They will use these inquiries as “lie detector” tests to establish your veracity, as well as the facts.

Your objective is to ascertain the knowledge of the reporter and whether the allegations are true. This analysis is ordinarily done during off-the-record exchanges. It is crucial for you to establish the extent of their knowledge and resources when you brief your executives.

I acknowledge that this can be difficult. Some reporters do not want to “show their hand” too soon, if at all. Others, quite frankly, do not care and will describe what they have in detail.

A few will lie about what they know, which makes the assessment even more difficult. I try to answer several questions first as a sign of good faith before asking for their information.

Obviously, they will not reveal names, but it is common for reporters to state that they have been talking to employees or others and have documents. In fact, it’s common for reporters to fax or e-mail me their documentation.

There have been times when a reporter will e-mail an internal document or research report before I can get it from my own organization.

As previously stated, everything written in any organization should be created with the media in mind. Everyone should ask themselves, “How would a reporter interpret this e-mail or document?”

Informants

I make it a rule never to try to figure out who is talking to the media. I am so used to others talking that I take it in stride.

If this individual is discovered, then someone else will probably take their place. It’s pointless to try to establish their identity, and your media source will punish you if you do.

Your ability to understand and assess the situation accurately will be crucial to the speed and precision of your organization’s response. It’s also fine to convey this to the reporter.

If a reporter tells me that she has internal documents, I try not to sound too impressed. “Okay, join the crowd,” I say, “but I have a lot going on today, so you’re going to have to give me some details if you want me to put this at the top of my list.”

If the reporter gives me details, and it’s serious enough, I will pull executives out of meetings. If not, then I will write an e-mail and people will respond when they get my message.

It’s amazing how this reality prompts reporters to be more forthcoming. They know that employees and detractors often “shop” the same information to other news outlets, so they would like a prompt response. I simply tell them that they “have to help me help them, so tell me as much as possible about the information you have.” Many times they do.

I do not want to oversell the issue of preparedness; some reporters do little homework before asking questions. Some reporters’ sole source is the morning newspaper or the wire story.

Well-prepared reporters usually represent regional newspapers and big-market television stations. Within every television or news-oriented radio station, several investigative reporters will be equally prepared.

The majority of reporters will follow the lead of the investigative journalists; thus, it is very common for those reporters to influence the entire media market.

Success With the Media

For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at https://amzn.com/151948965X.  Your reviews are appreciated.

See my website at http://leonardsipes.com.

Contact me at leonardsipes@gmail.com.

 

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