What Makes The Cut?

A client had a conversation with a newspaper reporter recently. The client expected the call to last 30 minutes at most. It went on for nearly two-and-a-half hours! Was that a good thing? Maybe.

I explained to the client that she is not able to control what might be used in any story the reporter would write. She can only hope that he includes all or most of her key message points.

I’ve had print profiles done on me during my time as a morning radio host. I recall chatting with a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter for about 40 minutes. I gave him enough good content, I thought, to fill the paper’s entire Sunday magazine. When the item ran a few Sundays later—four or five paragraphs long, as I recall—he included only a couple of my good nuggets and three or four of my throwaway remarks.

In Jacksonville, a newspaper reporter asked me what station I listened to when I was not listening to my own station. I replied that, since I was involved in my station’s programming, I monitored our main format competitor to keep up with what they were doing. When the item ran, that answer made it appear that I was a big fan of my competitor.

As one who had recorded interviews and press conferences on my trusty cassette recorder and lifted brief sound bites from within a large amount of content, I should have given more thought to what I was doing.

When you have the opportunity to participate in any kind of media interview, you need to prepare. Consider the points you want to communicate and those items you might wish to avoid. Even then, your strong content—though worthy and clearly stated—may not be what’s wanted/needed for a story.

The recent movie “Savages” has so much narrative and so many characters that actress Uma Thurman’s scenes were cut. She is a talented performer with huge box office appeal. But she did not make the cut.

If Oliver Stone can cut a major star out of a big movie, that radio/TV/newspaper reporter can certainly choose not to include your contribution. Or, the reporter may pick up on a casual “sidebar” type remark instead of your main points.

My main advice is to make sure your points are delivered clearly and concisely. Avoid casual add-ons to your answers. And hope that the media person presents your comments in a fair and responsible manner. Good luck making the cut!

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