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Understanding Obnoxious Reporters

As you may be aware, reporters and the editors and TV producers who drive them can be an obnoxious lot — nosy, impatient and often competing fiercely to yell out a question aimed at pinning down some poor politician or bureaucrat or coach or overpaid athlete in a glare of unwelcome publicity.

Well, it’s all true. There’s no denying that. It’s what we do. And we’re not out to make anyone look good, either. As the humorist P.J. Rourke puts it, “Journalists aren’t supposed to praise things. It’s a violation of work rules almost as serious as buying drinks with our own money or absolving the CIA of something.”

Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But there’s an element of human nature to that behavior. When I do media relations training, especially if I’m focusing on effective communication via presentation skills training in mock press conferences, the trainees who act as reporters get a huge kick out of nailing the guys or gals gripping the podium as they try to answer shouted questions.

But remember this: The most professional of journalists — and I include by far most of that lot I’ve known in 35 years — are driven by one powerful motivation. What tops their agenda is not “getting” someone or pushing a certain political point-of-view. No, what spurs them is promoting themselves. That’s their real agenda — promotion, more pay and recognition from their peers. And they won’t achieve that if their work is sloppy, biased and inaccurate.

When you think about it, that description fits a lot of jobs, doesn’t it?

So keep in mind the famous dictum of 19th-century New York newspaper editor Charles Dana, who wanted his reporters to look for the “man bites dog” story, not its mundane opposite.

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Media Relations: Another Form of Business Communication
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