Thursday, March 21, 2013

What's that media interview going to be like? Go online in advance to find out

If you've never done a media interview, and sometimes even if you have, the process may seem fraught with peril. What will happen? Who'll sit where? What do you say before the interview starts, and after? What if something bad happens? What about special formats, like editorial board meetings, or intimidating ones, like 60 Minutes?

It's an especially good question right now, because interview segments are on the rise in a time of tight budgets and low staffing in journalism, according to new data out this week from the Pew Research Center:
At Fox, CNN and MSNBC, where annual revenues continue to grow (albeit more slowly than in years past), daytime coverage of live events fell 30% from 2007, while interview segments — which don't require a full crew and correspondent, and can be scheduled ahead of time — rose 31%. CNN has cut the number of produced story segments in half. On local TV stations, story lengths have diminished, while easy-to-deliver topics such as sports, weather and traffic have grown to account for 40% of content.
There's much we can do in a media training to teach you about what to expect, but today, you have lots of online options for eavesdropping on real interviews to hear and see what might happen. Check out these free options for learning more about how your interview might go:
  • The rise of the uncut interview online is a boon for those of you who have never heard or experienced the arc of an interview from start to finish. More news outlets are publishing uncut versions alongside edited pieces, so you can do your own comparison of what did and didn't make the cut--that's a useful exercise if you need to rein in your remarks, or if you don't understand why one phrase gets used and another doesn't. I recommend listening to or reading an uncut interview alongside the produced piece so you can see and hear the differences. Public radio's On Being shares all its uncut interviews alongside the edited podcast, and while not every interview will be this long or carefully done, you can learn a lot by listening to them. Try this grouping of uncut interviews for a program about priest and philosopher Teilhard de Chardin, which includes one with New York Times blogger Andrew Revkin, so you can hear how a reporter handles being the subject of an interview. Or this one, with Seth Godin. You'll note, among other things, how the start of both interviews deals with an essential: Can both interviewer and interviewee hear one another, since both interviews were done remotely? Uncut interviews are a good reminder that anything you say, even pre-interview chatter, can wind up on the web or in the story.
  • Editorial board meetings, the gathering of those reporters and editors who determine the opinions expressed by a newspaper, have long had super-secret status. Not so today. The Charleston Daily Mail conducted a recent ed board meeting in a Google+ Hangout that was live-tweeted; you also can watch the archived video online.
  • Blooper reels let you see what not to do in interviews. If you learn nothing else from this 60 Minutes reel, which features heads of state of many nations ripping off their lavalier mics and storming off the set to end the interview, learn this: The camera keeps rolling for your entrance and your exit, and anything you say or do is fair game. Don't believe me? See for yourself how the mighty are portrayed.
  • "See you on the radio" isn't just a funny thing to say, now that some live radio interview shows are sharing video online. Here's an hourlong video of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's live interview on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show. It's a great way to get a sense of the in-studio experience, see how the host behaves and handles the flow of questions and sponsor breaks, get a look at the equipment in use and more. And it's worth asking in every medium, from print to broadcast, about all the formats in which you might appear, since most news outlets now publish in more than one.

Let me know if you need training or a prep or refresher session before your next media interview: Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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