Inside the Media
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To order Winning with the News Media:
Below are excerpts from the Good Guys/Bad Guys chapter of
Winning with the News Media
Copyright © 2005, 2001, 1999, 1996
By Clarence Jones
Good Guys/Bad Guys
Saints and Sinners
I often tell my seminar audiences I teach human relations more than news media relations. How you deal with a reporter in the first few minutes will have enormous impact on how you are portrayed. Reporters claim to unbiased and objective. But no matter how hard they try to meet that goal, they are inevitably affected by personal experience and first impressions.
Since the morality plays of ancient Greece, the central theme of drama in most cultures has been: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys.
The news media in modern America have developed their own version of the morality play. The story may not say outright that you’re a Saint or Sinner. But the trivia that is noted, in words or pictures, will make the point very clearly.
A lot that is communicated in news stories is written between the lines; in the cutaway shots of television.
Reporters develop a kind of personality radar. A sixth sense that quickly judges you and casts you on one side or the other. Some media consultants claim reporters make that critical assessment less than a minute after first contact with an interview subject.
They already know something about you before they arrive. From research, they may know a great deal about you. So they arrive with a preconceived attitude. Then they watch you very closely. Your facial expressions, your body language, the words you choose can quickly confirm their suspicions.
The Snowball Effect
Of course, they’re sometimes wrong. But that first impression will be passed on to their readers, viewers and listeners. Other journalists see the story, or dig it up as part of their preparation for your next interview. They arrive, already believing that you are who the previous stories said you were.
The snowball gathers speed. Can the political candidate really be as dumb as the media make him out to be? Is this movie star really as difficult on the set as the tabloids say? Is this mutual fund manager as brilliant as Business Week reports? This rock star as promiscuous?
Once something has been written about you, other reporters observe and listen to you very closely, looking for some nuance that will corroborate what has already been reported.
Perception Becomes Reality
In a media-driven society, the first reporter’s perception can rapidly become reality. Conventional wisdom.
I’ve isolated eight traits — good and bad — that reporters will look for, and judge you by. There are others, but these are the basics.
The Media Morality Scale
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