I'm Eating a Cookie: An Instant Media Classic

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.