Keep Your Cool and Don’t Get Rattled
Reporters have some tricks up their sleeves. While many will be friendly and polite, a handful of them might try to push your buttons. Long pauses, lashing out, and errors in the story are all (or can seem to be) tests to see how you’ll respond. Staying cool can help protect the district’s reputation as well as your own.
Below are a few scenarios you might encounter and how to navigate them. Remember, you’re speaking from a position of power. Even if an exchange with a reporter seems tense or even combative, you can turn the situation to your advantage.
Stay cordial with angry reporters
Generally speaking, you should give reporters the information they want. There are exceptions to this, and some reporters grow impatient when they don’t get answers. Angry reporters think they can pressure the information out of you, but this only puts you in a difficult position.
Maintain your composure, and never fight with an angry reporter—all you’ll do is make yourself look bad. When they press you further, simply explain that you’ve given them all the info you can give. Tell the reporter you’re happy to help, but there are just some things you’re unable to disclose to the public at this time.
Embrace the long pause
After you give a response, the reporter might pause before moving on to their next question. This long pause is a tactic reporters use to keep you talking. Many people feel uncomfortable sitting in silence, so they’ll fill it by adding to the conversation. If you fill the silence, you may end up sharing more than you planned to.
Don’t let long pauses throw you off. When there’s a pause, slowly count to five in your head. If the reporter still won’t speak up, ask them something like, “Anything else?” This signals the end of your response and puts the ball back in their court. Remember, say what you want and nothing more.
Ask for corrections if necessary
Sometimes, a reporter will get the facts wrong. They might print an inaccurate statistic or leave out information that’s crucial for telling the story. This can be very frustrating, especially when you’ve taken the time to provide the reporter with correct information.
If there’s an error in the news story, call the editor and politely ask for a correction. Most of the time, a newspaper editor will fulfill your request by rerunning the story with the necessary corrections. Emphasize that revising the story is in the best interest of the public.
Throughout your time in the district, you’re bound to encounter some reporters who will test your patience. Whether they do it intentionally or not is beside the point. As a representative of the district, it’s your responsibility to make a good impression, no matter what a reporter might throw at you.