Friday, December 11, 2009

What Tiger Woods, politicians, and people in the public eye don't understand about the media

Every kid has a Christmas memory like this. Parent puts present under tree, tells kid not to shake it, "or you'll know what it is." Statement drives kid nuts till Christmas. Kid focuses on that particular present, and it's the first one opened on Christmas morning.

You see, when you're told to ignore something, it just makes you that much more curious. It's human nature.

Combine that concept with a business populated by nosy people, and it takes the curiosity factor up exponentially.

So when someone says "no comment" or brushes you off or ducks out a back door, you know something's up. Because people with nothing to hide aren't afraid to talk with reporters.

I'm actually baffled by Tiger Woods bunker mentality, and the longer this goes on, the worse it gets. If I were his PR spin control guy, I would have told him to come out the day of the accident and say something like, "Hey, I got into an argument with my mother-in-law and just wanted to get out of the house to cool off. I was ticked off and pulled out of the driveway too fast. Guess I should have taken a walk."

And you know, most reporters probably would have bought it, considering the fact that the guy had nothing in his past to suggest what is now being reported.

Nothing kicks my reporter's internal radar up more than someone who won't give me a straight answer or provides no answer at all. Amazingly, people in the public eye haven't figured this out.

So here's what famous people need to realize when dealing with the media. And as reporters, this should be your creed.

I am a reporter.

If I ask you a question with respect, treat me with respect and give me an honest answer. In return, I'll treat you fairly and objectively. It's a two way street.

If you lie to me, I'll find out. Then I'll tell my audience you lied to me.

If you tell me there's nothing to the story, I'll know there is something really good out there, and I'll work harder to find it.

If you give me a "no comment" I'll only dig deeper until I find someone who will give me a comment, and you probably won't like it.

If you walk past me without saying anything, I'll only work harder to find the truth.

If you make yourself totally inaccessible I'll know something is up, and I'll pick you clean like a vulture.

Because I am a reporter.

It is my job to ask the questions the people want asked. To find the truth and present it without emotion or bias.

Trust me, nothing is more of a rush than playing Woodward & Bernstein and feeling your heart pound when you find the holy grail that is the truth.

If you're truly guilty, tell me now. Be honest with me and I'll respect you more for it.

And then I won't spend all day digging up something that could be even worse.

I can almost predict what will happen next, and so can most of you. And it will happen with every public figure caught cheating on his wife. The man in question (now playing the victim) will go on a talk show and spill his guts like the Pope is sitting in a confessional. We'll hear stories about sex addicts (previously known as "men") and see a wife doing the Tammy Wynette thing.

And we'll all know it's fake.

If only these people knew that by saying nothing, they're telling the media and the rest of the world a whole lot more.

When you get the runaround, a "no comment" or have an end run pulled on you, that's the time for you as a reporter to work harder. The harder they try to hide something, the more they have to hide.

1 comment:

turdpolisher said...

ever notice the same people who told us that the president getting a hummer in the oval office was none of our business are the same ones digging up every woman tiger may have bumped into?