U.S. Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte provided the Rio Olympics with an ongoing drama of lies and deceit that went on for days. His first story was that he and some of his teammates where held up at gunpoint during a night on the town. As we now know, that wasn’t true. But somehow celebrity interviewer Billy Bush still couldn’t get his arms around what was fact or fiction. Yes, Lochte first told his harrowing story to Billy, but that story changed with the help of eyewitnesses and security camera video. Once the truth was known, it appears Billy still didn’t quite get the message. This exchange with the Today Show’s Al Roker shows why its difficult sometimes for some members of the media to back away from a view where facts don’t match reality. By the end of this clip, Bush seems to have come to his senses. Thanks to Al Roker for being the voice of reason.
For years, SeaWorld and the United States Humane Society have been at odds over Orca breeding at the theme park’s locations. The two organizations have now declared a cease fire. Together, they announced an agreement to end the killer whale breeding program and phase out the theatrical shows with existing orcas.
Nothing will get the blood flowing like being ambushed by a TV news crew. Just look at California’s Secretary of Health who was surprised by CNN’s Drew Griffin. Like most ambush interviews, this really should not have been a surprise. CNN had been trying for weeks to get an interview. The video shows the lengths to which the media will go to get the story they want. In most cases, it is better to consent to an interview. Why create all of this drama that will certainly make its way in to the story? What makes the story so compelling is that this is a public official trying to duck the interview. (You have to go about 4:30 into the story to see the full ambush.)
When a construction worker was killed early in his shift while working on the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, the news media responded with coverage that is predictable. This story from WCCO is typical of most news stories following an incident like this. The reporter looked at the safety record of the construction company, speculated if workers were using safety harnesses and put the focus on sympathy for the victim and co-workers. For his part, an executive from the general contractor on the job did a masterful job of expressing sympathy and a genuine sense of loss. Just as important, the executive indicated a thorough investigation would determine what had occurred. He did not speculate on the cause. In this clip he demonstrates how to manage the media and the message in a crisis.
It is a good idea to be prepared for any interview. Rockford Gray has built a successful business around preparing executives to face the media. But in the course of an interview, you really should not be asking for a “timeout”. And the optics of having your media advisor ask you to step away for some counsel in the middle of an interview doesn’t show much confidence around the message that you’re delivering. This is exactly what happened to former Baylor University President Ken Starr who was being interviewed when his media advisor stepped-in. Awkward!
Former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver now has his own show on HBO. Last Week Tonight features this amusing but telling clip of 60 Minutes Anchors prompting people to deliver the exact soundbite they need. This happens in countless news stories where reporters skillfully manipulate the interviewee to meet their expectations for the story. It is an easy trap in which to fall. To avoid this trap, stop treating the interview like a conversation. The simple lesson: use your own language.