Internet/Telecom/Social Media

Dealing with reporters? How to avoid getting Sandeeped

The left blogogentsia is all blowed up this afternoon over the story Martin wrote about earlier today. Since that post, more info has come to light that makes Sandeep Kaushik, the campaign spokesman in question, look considerably less guilty and that makes the cub reporter in training look like somebody who walked into the room knowing what story he was going to write, regardless of what was actually said. I think Martin is going to have more on this later, so I’ll hold off on further comment about the story itself.

However, I do want to offer a thoughts on how to avoid the fate that Mr. Kaushik stumbled into. There’s an important object lesson here for any of us who might find ourselves talking to the press. I’ve been misquoted myself, and in far worse ways than this one, by real reporters. In one instance the bozo quoted me saying something that not only did I not say, I had never even thought it. Literally, for a graf or so the story turned into pure creative writing. The fortunate part was that the reporter’s fabrication didn’t do any damage, it didn’t put me in a bad light and it didn’t make any real difference to the story. It was just a little surreal, is all.

Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect ourselves. So here’s some handy-dandy, practical and free advice for making sure you’re quoted and represented fairly and accurately, should you ever find yourself at the mercy of a practicing journalist.

  1. Get a recorder. Handheld digital audio devices are cheap as dirt and work pretty well. Sound quality is fine, especially if you can plug in a microphone, and they interface with your computer, outputting to whatever format is needed.
  2. Even better, get a video recorder and a tripod. This makes for better visual effect.
  3. Use them. When you walk into an interview or speaking context where there are reporters present (really, any situation where what you say might find its way into a story) set the recorder up and do so obviously.
  4. Call people’s attention to the fact that you’re recording. You can play this any number of ways, depending on your personality and the situation. If I’m in the room with a reporter who has burned me before, I might be a bit pointed about what’s going on. If not, I might step more lightly, even playing it off as “I just like to keep a solid record of what I said in case I ever need to refer back to it.” Your call.
  5. Offer to make a copy of the recording available to the reporter(s), especially if they aren’t obviously recording themselves (and if not, that’s a possible red flag right there). The nice way of interpreting this offer is that you’re trying to be friendly and helpful. If they want to read something more aggressive into it, that’s fine, but in either case it’s clear to all involved that you have the capability of proving what you said.
  6. If they get you wrong, nothing supports your request for a correction, retraction or sanction quite like stone cold proof that the reporter screwed up.

Yeah, I’m aware that not all situations lend themselves easily to the Big Tech solution. But the handheld audio recorder is something you can have in your briefcase or desk or glove compartment at all times, and that affords you a healthy measure of protection against a reporters with an agenda (or a simple lack of ability).

1 reply »

  1. These are good points. When everything you say can be characterized in almost any way without the full context of the conversation, having a recorded record of that can help.

    Still, damage control after the fact is energy draining, and may be all you can do if you don’t have a means to verify a story before it is written.