Saturday, 27 July 2013

Mo Farah is very nice

We all live in fear of being Paxo’d… having to deal with relentless questioning from a heavy weight political or investigative journalist, being caught out telling porkies, hanging ourselves with our own words whilst an audience of opinion makers snorts and dismisses us as light weight.

That rarely happens unless you’re a CEO of a FTSE 100 company, the leader of a major political party or a bishop… no, what is more likely to happen is that you’re in front of a badly prepared ill-informed journalist who forgets your name half way through the interview.

I have been that journalist… and I’m not proud of those moments.

At the weekend Mo Farah the double Olympic champion was mistaken for an amateur runner after winning a half marathon in New Orleans. You have to feel for LaTonya Norton, the journalist in question as that mistake will follow her on the interweb for ever.

So what do you do if you realise that the interviewer is wrong… call them on it or be like Mo and help them through without losing your dignity?

Option 1, call them on it. It’s fine if your story is controversial and you’re there to stoke that controversy (or at least that’s what the journalist wants you to do) a polite “We’re not talking about the same thing…” or “some people have assumed that but…” lets the journalist off the hook delicately and allows them to back track with grace.

If they take the hint.

If they don’t you need to be more forceful with your language and “your figures / that information is wrong, this is the real situation…” is valid but can make them angry, they’ll think you’re hiding things and they may go for you.

Never get angry with a journalist. The audience have a pre-existing relationship with them, not you. They are a friend and you’ve just attacked a friend. Never say that the interviewer is stupid, because by extension you’re saying that the audience is stupid.
Be polite at all times and calmly put your facts forward…

Option 2, let them off.

This is what Mo Farah did, he was startled by questions that he wasn’t expecting, implying that he was a novice runner… You can just imagine the scene in the WDSU gallery, they were telling LaTonya Norton that they were going to go live to Mo Farah winner of the half marathon in a record time and that it was the first time that he had run a half marathon… all true and yet the important bits of information were left out. She didn’t know forgot or just didn’t connect with the name Mo Farah and went ahead with an interview that was poorly briefed.

I have done this, 1000 things are happening around you and suddenly you have to talk to someone that you’re badly briefed about.

It’s one of the things that happen in live broadcasting.

Thankfully Mo Farah (as the guest) just went with it. If you are the guest you just need to go with it and deal with the situation giving full answers that can steer the interviewer to the right questions to ask.

If you ever become the badly briefed, researched or prepared for guest just ask yourself “What would Mo do?”

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