Friday, May 27, 2011

File tape can be an old friend

I found a tape in my closet this week that has been sitting there for more than 20 years. I have no idea if it will even play, but it is in pristine condition in a box, so I'm betting it will.

The tape has never aired.

It's a tape of a public figure making a comment to me that is so bizarre that if the guy ever did said bizarre thing, I'd have an incredible sound bite from the past.

Those sound bites from the past can come back to bite you, whether they're a few months old or much older. Lately we've been treated to Ahnold and Maria's file tapes which proves he wasn't telling the truth and she was in a horrible state of denial. (Either that, or she was just playing the time-honored Kennedy wife role.)

Most reporters save notes in their desk drawers, and many save tapes. There's a reason for that. Sometimes you need proof someone said something, and if you've got it on tape, there's nothing better.

This is very true of politicians, as the term "flip-flop" becomes very popular when these politicians find their own words from the past coming back to haunt them. This is very different from "gotcha" journalism, which constitutes asking a question designed to make a politician look bad, like the classic no-win question, "When did you stop beating your wife?"

When a public figure gives you an interview and takes a stand on an issue, or says something unusual, it's a good idea to either toss that tape in your desk drawer or dub off a copy before putting it back in service. You may never use the tape, but better to have it when you need it than need it and not have it.


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