Three Dangerous Types of Reporters
Most reporters aren’t out to get you.
But since there are always a few who try to get you to say something you’ll later regret, this lesson will help you survive your interactions with three of the most dangerous types of reporters.
Dangerous Type One: The Quiet Type
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who just keeps looking at you when you’ve finished talking? If you’re like most people, you feel awkward and quickly start talking again to fill the uncomfortable silence.
Reporters bank on that awkward dynamic and know you’ll say the most damaging things after you’ve finished your “official” answer. Instead of falling into this trap, just remain quiet after your official answer, or say something like, “That’s the main point. What other questions can I answer for you?”
Dangerous Type Two: The Jerk
I regularly had to deal with one very nasty reporter from a major wire service on behalf of one of my clients. He relished asking aggressive questions in the most hostile way possible, and I found it tough not to react defensively. I learned to ignore his tone and re-write his question in my mind, a good technique if you find yourself in a similar situation.
For example, if he asked:
“Your group hasn’t accomplished anything. When will you stop wasting people’s money and give up already?”
In my mind, I would re-write the question to something less hostile, such as:
“Can you tell me about your accomplishments?
Then, I would calmly respond:
“I disagree with your question’s premise, and am happy to share a few of our accomplishments with you. First, we recently….”
Dangerous Type Three: The Friendly Guy At The Bar
During one dinner with a female friend, she looked over to the bar and groaned. She told me that a man had just started hitting on a woman sitting by herself – but in the way that makes women cringe. She said that women all know “that guy.”
He’s the man at the bar who approaches a female stranger and begins to chat her up. He thinks he’s being slick, but the woman can instinctively sense his ulterior motives.
Still, he persists. He agrees a little too easily with everything she says and laughs a little too loudly at her jokes. He’s waiting for that moment when (he hopes) she agrees to go home with him.
Some reporters have something in common with that guy: they’ll say what they have to to get what they want. Sometimes, that means they’ll try to coax something out of you that you’ll later regret saying.
The “friendly” reporter aims to make you feel comfortable so you begin speaking freely. But when the story runs, you’re devastated to find that he abused your trust by printing some of your most damning statements. But he didn’t abuse your trust. His loyalty was always to the story, not to you.
Never confuse the genuine kindness of a reporter for that of a friend. Be friendly, be warm, be outgoing – but never tell him things you might later regret.
Related: Seven Ways To Give a Better Phone Interview
Good post Brad! If I might add another from my experience, the “I’ve already written my story” reporter. The guy who isn’t gathering news and not interested in new information that might challenge what he’s heard from other sources. Just looking for a quote to plug in. Usualy the giveaway is the quote trap: “Would you say that this is the biggest display of corporate malfeasance since Enron?…No…literally, would you repeat it back to me?”
Thanks, Brad. I always enjoy reading your posts. I’m not sure if this would fall under a ‘dangerous reporter’ or ‘dangerous tactics’ headline, but I’ve witnessed the “playing dumb” reporter on many occasions.
I’m told there are several reasons why a reporter would use this routine but I’m wondering what your take is on it?
First, thank you for your kind words and for reading the blog!
Your question would make for a great blog post. I’ll plan to answer your question on the blog within the next couple of weeks – thank you for the great idea!
I look forward to it!
And I’ll certainly spread the word once it’s up.
All the best,