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Media Training Fundamental: Reporters Are Always Working

What is the role of a reporter and to whom is that reporter responsible? This is a question we tackle in most media training sessions because DPK Public Relations believes it is important for spokespersons to understand the environment in which they will be attempting to deliver their messages.
 
The answer is pretty simple, really. A reporter has only one master: the story. In our media training sessions, we explain that the role of a reporter is to gather information and weave those facts into compelling stories that will make the audience pay attention.
 
You might have a reporter who lives next door and is among your good friends. If you found yourself in the middle of a news story, do you think that reporter will give you special consideration? Think again.
 
Nothing tops the story in the world of a reporter. If friendships are sacrificed, so be it. Of course, a reporter will insist that it's not personal and that's true. This is the business that they are in and they are never off the clock.
 
A great example is the experience of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke who was pleased to bump into CNBC's Maria Bartiromo at a dinner in 2006. They exchanged a few brief words and then parted ways.
 
What Mr. Bernanke didn't fully appreciate is that Ms. Bartiromo may have been in an evening gown but she was still on the clock. Here's how Market Watch reported what happened next:
 
CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo reported that she had bumped into Bernanke at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner over the weekend and that he agreed with her assessment that the market had misinterpreted his congressional testimony last week as dovish.
 
Instead of meaning the Fed had only one more rate hike to go before ending the tightening cycle, as the market had concluded from his testimony, Bernanke said he was stressing that the Fed might pause and start raising rates again. Everything depended on the data, he said.
 
The markets, unaccustomed from getting the latest thinking from the Fed chairman in this manner, reacted swiftly, with stocks falling in late trading Monday, bond yields rising to a four-year high and the dollar jumped.
 
Without knowing exactly what was said, many refused to speculate. The Fed is not commenting on the story.

That the conversation took place at the correspondents dinner, with its heady blend of media and political heavyweights and Hollywood stars, only added to the spice to the story.
 
Many believed Bernanke most likely thought the conversation was off-the-record.
 
But officials at the White House Correspondents Association said all conversation at the dinner is on the record, unless the official says they are private.
 
In our media interview skills training sessions, we do not advocate taking a defensive posture with reporters, but it is essential that every spokesperson understand that everything done and said in the presence of a journalist is fair game. They are observers and you are the observed. They will describe what you look like, your posture, your disposition and your tone of voice. So you have to be "on" from the first moment to the last.
 
For those who believe that there are limits to how far a journalist would go for a story, I offer the following brief video clip in which some of the great broadcast journalists of the 20th century discuss a hypothetical situation: What would they do if they knew of a planned ambush on American soldiers? Simple question? Not for a journalist.
 
 
The story is king. Nothing personal, just business. Knowing this should guide your interactions with all journalists going forward.
 
For more information on DPK Public Relations' media interview skills training services, visit http://www.dpkpr.com/mediatraining/, call 214-432-7556 or fill out our PR contact form.
 
Dan Keeney
(832) 467-2904
(214) 4432-7555
Author: Dan Keeney
Phone: (832) 467-2904
Fax: (214) 4432-7555
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