During media training, a participant said to me no offense, but she encounters reporters especially in TV who are dumb as rocks. Reporters show up to interviews with no concept of the topic. They even ask her what questions to ask.
Other participants agreed this lack of intelligence seems more prevalent in TV news. How would I respond?
First, I imagine every industry employs people we cannot believe have their positions. I don’t have studies concluding TV news has a higher share of dumb dumbs. But let’s use some logic. Many TV news directors don’t hire the best reporters they can find. They hire the best reporters they can find who are good looking. Some people might be excellent journalists, engaging to watch and know how to turn even the most mundane topics into visual masterpieces. But if those same reporters look like Elmer Fudd and sound like Mickey Mouse, their chances of holding a microphone or anchoring the news plummet. On The Flip Side, some news directors don’t mind teaching beauty queens how to report the news.
There’s another factor to consider. It was not uncommon for me to arrive for a 1:30pm editorial meeting and be told to go live at 5pm about, for example, a complex insurance story I knew nothing about. The assignment desk hustled me out the door to an interview it previously scheduled. With the few minutes allotted, I turned to Google, jumped on my smartphone and gathered every kernel of information I could on the way to the interview. You can see how someone less ambitious might show up with very little knowledge, although asking people what questions to ask them is an experience I can’t relate to. But TV general assignment reporters cover everything and often have little time to study.
The silver lining is this: A reporter who doesn’t have a clue might be less willing to hit you with hard questions. They just want to finish the interview without making themselves look any more like a jackass. So if an unprepared reporter shows up and sounds like a dummy, be smart and guide the interview to go just like you want. Yes, take advantage of the situation. The media often push people into a tough corner. You can return the favor when possible to push your agenda to an unprepared journalist.