The North Forest Independent School District knew I was coming for days and they knew I would be armed… with a TV camera that is. My elaborate plan was to go into the lobby of the administration building and ask to see the Superintendent.
When I arrived with my army of my three member crew, I tried to come into the front door of the administration building, Their response… they actually locked the doors of the school administration building to keep me out, and then summoned the entire school district police force, pulling them from their posts in the troubled high school to protect the school from my onslaught.
Then the Chief of Police bowed up to me to prove he was tough.
First of all, I never minded getting arrested. Reporters got their own cell, and you could only hope it was beef stew night. Ahhh… the good old days. I almost felt guilty as I made my speech about the public right to know and the insanity of leaving kids unprotected to surround journalists.
Guess you know my story started with the confrontation.
I actually had a meeting a few days ago with a guy who made a career training people how to prepare for an interview with me.
I have an idea. Now those people can just hire Dolcefino Consulting and get it from the horse’s mouth. Who knows better how to prepare for an interview, or the eventual arrival of the “grim reaper” investigative reporter than the guy who made his share of public officials cover their faces and run.
Preparing for the interview is critical. I have watched a one part story become a series of events because of the confrontations that, while enjoyable to me, was absolutely stupid.
Objectivity aside, reporters are human. Really, I know what you are thinking.
Seriously, if you confront the subject head on, admit mistakes when necessary, and don’t try to play the “let us outsmart the guy who gets to edit the interview after,” you can change the dynamics of the story.
Maybe the reporter doesn’t know everything when he or she comes in the door. You better hope they don’t get the tip after they leave.
Consider this a Journalistic Miranda like warning. Reporters will use what you say against you in the court of public opinion.
I know some media consultants just tell their clients to say no comment. I personally loved “no comments” while I worked as a reporter, because in a 4-minute investigative story, it gave me 3:55 seconds to say my piece.
And then, I still came looking for you. But I digress.
And good reporters don’t mind confrontations, they actually look forward to them. Why in the world would you want to face a microphone that way?
Part of being prepared is having your consultant help you prepare for the visit. I was always stunned by the lack of preparation of some interview subjects, even if they knew I was coming for weeks, and thought they had a clue what I would ask.
I remember asking a School Board President one of those questions with no real good answers. Why did he let a teacher suspected of sexual misconduct go to another school district without letting the state know? He stared at me, without response, total silence, for 14 seconds. That may not seem too long, but count it out in your head.
In TV it was a veritable lifetime. I ran every single second of it.
And then I said, “Other than staring at me… do you have anything else to offer?”
Admittedly sarcastic… but that’s what folks at home were thinking.
I know how reporters prepare, what reporters will ask, and how they will ask it. I also know how the wrong answers can lead to criminal investigations, indictments, even prison time. I also know that many reporters do not like being controlled, and how to teach the employees you do not want serving as spokesman handle themselves.
Some companies will show you videos to help you. I will train you and your people, and Dolcefino Consulting can also assist in examining the requests beforehand, and the documents, so that you are fully prepared.
Even if it’s not great news, sometimes it just a hickey. Don’t make it worse.