Categories

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Dealing With the Press

Over the last five years, I’ve done inter­views with many dif­fer­ent nation­al and local tele­vi­sion shows and pub­li­ca­tions about inter­net safe­ty, cyber­stalk­ing and “reg­u­lar” stalk­ing. I’ve also done one Swedish TV show, one show for the BBC, and one inter­view with a British mag­a­zine, .Net. I’ve learned some things about deal­ing with them the hard way, and after I post­ed some­thing about them to a mail­ing list, one of the read­ers asked if I’d write them up as an arti­cle to which she could link. Here it is.

My expe­ri­ence with the press in the US is just this: they lie. They will do what­ev­er it takes to get the sto­ry they’ve decid­ed they want, no mat­ter what the facts are, no mat­ter who they have to deceive, no mat­ter how much decep­tive edit­ing they have to do. Peri­od.

The BBC folks were the only ones who were hon­est, who did what they said they’d do, who actu­al­ly did a rea­son­able amount of research on their own, and who did­n’t edit my words out of con­text. They made some minor mis­takes, but noth­ing mate­r­i­al. Every oth­er show, from 20/20 Down­town to the local news, did twist things around to get the sound bites they want­ed. Okay, Oprah did­n’t, but that show is live (actu­al­ly, I’d have to say that my expe­ri­ence with them was the best I’ve had with any US media enti­ty).

I’m very, very picky about who I’ll grant inter­views to now. I have very strict rules that the reporters must agree to up front, and if they push, I cut off all con­tact. I get noth­ing from these interviews—I don’t NEED to do them. They ben­e­fit an orga­ni­za­tion I work with and increase vis­i­bil­i­ty for an issue that’s impor­tant to me, but that does­n’t mean I’ll let reporters vio­late my bound­aries. I did­n’t have these rules in place ear­ly on, and I believe I would have avoid­ed sev­er­al bad expe­ri­ences if I had already estab­lished them.

The media does­n’t talk to or meet our chil­dren. It is unlike­ly that they will speak to my part­ner. They don’t get my street address or come to my home or, when I was work­ing out­side the home, my place of busi­ness. They don’t usu­al­ly find out where I’m work­ing, in fact, because I don’t trust them not to give that infor­ma­tion away some­how. They don’t show any of our vehi­cles on film. They find a neu­tral shoot­ing loca­tion or loca­tions for their shots—I did make an excep­tion in tak­ing two film crews to the range where I did most of my tar­get prac­tice at the time, but I fig­ured that was a fair­ly safe place that the stalk­er is like­ly to avoid any­way (and the range own­er was com­plete­ly hap­py to coop­er­ate and get some free adver­tis­ing). I don’t change fam­i­ly plans to do an inter­view, and these days they have to come to Atlanta—it’s too upset­ting to our fam­i­ly life for me to fly else­where with­out lots and lots of notice and plan­ning.

Most of the reporters/producers I’ve dealt with are just com­plete­ly shocked that any­body would even men­tion, much less main­tain, bound­aries. They expect any­one to be so blown away by being HONORED by the fact that they want to inter­view us that we’ll do absolute­ly ANYTHING to make it hap­pen. Nope, not so. Not here, at least.

Before agree­ing to any kind of media inter­view (espe­cial­ly regard­ing any top­ic that might be con­sid­ered con­tro­ver­sial), decide what you do and do not want to accom­plish. What pur­pose is served in doing this inter­view? What will you gain, if any­thing, either for you per­son­al­ly or for an issue that is impor­tant to you? Is the media out­let you’re deal­ing with a respectable one, and is it going to be a good venue to dis­cuss the top­ic at hand? (Hint: Jer­ry Springer isn’t a good venue for doing any­thing that you won’t regret hor­ri­bly for a long time. The Nation­al Enquir­er is not the place to explain your home life or your reli­gious views. And “free­lance jour­nal­ists” can sell what­ev­er you give them to who­ev­er they like, with­out any input from you. Don’t both­er.)

Find out the scope and focus of the arti­cle. Yes, they’re like­ly to lie about that, too, but if you don’t ask, you def­i­nite­ly won’t know. If you want to talk seri­ous­ly about your reli­gious beliefs, and they’re just look­ing for a local witch to inter­view on Hal­loween, you won’t be hap­py with the results. If you want to encour­age peo­ple to avoid being a vic­tim of crime by think­ing ahead and pro­tect­ing them­selves and their fam­i­lies, and the pro­duc­er wants a scare sto­ry to encour­age pas­sage of restric­tive leg­is­la­tion that you don’t agree with, you need to tell the pro­duc­er to find some­one else to inter­view. If you want to talk about polyamory as a respon­si­ble way to bring more love into your life and show them how healthy and secure your kids are with hav­ing four par­ents instead of two, but the reporter can’t give you an exact time because they aren’t sure how long it’ll take to fin­ish shoot­ing some film at the local swinger’s club, can­cel the inter­view. The focus is on sex, not rela­tion­ships, and will not help your goals at all.

Sit down and estab­lish your own bound­aries. If you have a part­ner or part­ners, you should prob­a­bly include them and think seri­ous­ly about any poten­tial impact on your fam­i­ly. If you’re talk­ing about, say, polyamory, and some of your SOs aren’t out to their employ­ers or fam­i­lies, is it going to cause trou­ble for those SOs? If you’re doing inter­views about a top­ic like stalk­ing, as I have, is any­thing said or shown in the inter­view going to com­pro­mise your fam­i­ly’s safe­ty fur­ther? Will doing the inter­view cause any harass­ment you’re expe­ri­enc­ing to wors­en (and yes, that’s hap­pened to me every time I’ve done an interview—I accept that fact when I agree to one)—or even cause oth­ers to tar­get you for harass­ment due to non-main­stream reli­gious beliefs or lifestyles? Is what­ev­er you’re talk­ing about going to cause trou­ble with your your cur­rent employ­er, or make it more dif­fi­cult for you to gain future employ­ment?

Once you have your bound­aries estab­lished, stick to them. Firm­ly. Don’t be pres­sured. Reporters are used to get­ting peo­ple to talk about things they might not want to dis­cuss. They are accus­tomed to manip­u­lat­ing peo­ple. They can come across as your very best friend, and might even promise that some par­tic­u­lar infor­ma­tion is “off the record.” Don’t believe them. Every­thing you say and every­thing they can learn from you, your asso­ciates, and your sur­round­ings is fair game as far as they’re con­cerned. They might claim that it was a deci­sion made by a producer/editor/other minor deity lat­er, and that they can’t help it—but still, the dam­age will be done and you’ll have to deal with it while they move on to the next sto­ry. I’m sure that some­where out there, there’s an eth­i­cal mem­ber of the press—I just haven’t real­ly encoun­tered them, so I tend to believe that they’re rare. You can­not regret what you do not say, and you can­not ever take back any­thing you do say or any infor­ma­tion you make avail­able. Think first!

Don’t wait to “see how things go” before estab­lish­ing your bound­aries. Media peo­ple are charm­ing. It’s their job. They will be sym­pa­thet­ic and acco­mo­dat­ing and friend­ly and oth­er­wise just won­der­ful until they get what they want. You will not want to say no to them. You will want to be coop­er­a­tive and acco­mo­dat­ing, too, and before you know it you’re doing things you would­n’t have agreed to if you’d tru­ly thought about them before hand. The time to decide what you will and will not do and say is before the reporter or pro­duc­er is in your home or office.

The bot­tom line is that you need to think defen­sive­ly. It isn’t glam­orous to be inter­viewed. There’s no acclaim. Unless you’re wired utter­ly dif­fer­ent­ly than I am (which might well be, I know), the ego-boo just isn’t a big deal.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished 2001