Posts Tagged ‘TV station’

We Give Freedom Industries D For News Conference

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

West Virginia Chemical Spill News Conference

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Freedom Industries provided this news conference after the West Virginia chemical spill. The link takes you to a local TV station and appears to show the entire news conference, not portions of it like we saw on YouTube. The public has blasted this news conference, so you may wonder why we didn’t award the company an F. That’s because we’ve actually seen worse encounters with the media.

What Freedom Industries did right:

  • The company apologized.
  • The company president, although not in an elegant fashion, attempted to provide a timeline and details leading to the crisis.

What Freedom Industries did wrong:

  • The president drank bottled water during a news conference while people did not have normal access to their own water.
  • He didn’t know where to stand during the interview. Reporters at least twice asked him to reposition himself.
  • Camera lights may have been bright, but he should have made stronger attempts to look at the reporters asking him questions.
  • He lamented how this had been a long day, making him appear out of touch with those truly experiencing trouble, the people of West Virginia.
  • He tried to wrap up the news conference prematurely.
  • He actually walked away from reporters in an attempt to end the news conference.
  • He did not have control of the situation. Reporters repeatedly told him where to look and stand. Even when he began to walk away from the news conference, he agreed to return after a reporter essentially ordered him back.
  • At one point, he speculated on what may have caused the problem instead of sticking to facts or acknowledging he didn’t have the answer at the time.
  • At the end, he again walked away from reporters despite them wanting to ask more questions.

Will Newsrooms Learn From This?

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013


When I read TV station KTVU’s apology for misidentifying the pilots in the Asiana Airlines crash, one sentence in particular stood out to me.

“We heard this person verify the information without questioning who they were and then rushed the names on our noon newscast.”

The rush to report information without properly verifying it is an old and ongoing issue in the news business. Shortly after accepting a TV reporting job in Phoenix, I felt pressure to report information while covering a high-profile, breaking story. I did not report the information, but competitors did. The information was wrong.

Numerous times, I’ve watched TV anchors, under instructions to “stretch” and provide continuous live coverage, speculate about key information that turned out false.

The Tucson shooting and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on healthcare offer other disturbing examples of rushing to judgement and getting facts wrong.

I don’t know exactly what series of events occurred behind the scenes at KTVU that led to reporting fake names. But I wish more media outlets would issue hard and fast policies on verifying facts or sources. I’d like to see more newsrooms hold regular staff meetings to discuss procedures. When under pressure, do these newsrooms follow their procedures or rationalize breaking them? Sometimes, these unfortunate situations are a fluke, but sometimes newsrooms include an atmosphere vulnerable to big mistakes during breaking news. And while members of the media love to discuss their peers, has KTVU’s example inspired outlets to review their own newsroom policies?

And what is the payoff to rushing information on air? Will a station’s ratings suddenly spike because the public realizes that media outlet reported the information first? During big stories, can the public often even identify which outlet in town reported certain facts first?

The risk-reward factor is out of whack. But I might as well be talking to four, blank walls. This will happen again … and again.

Media Outlets Sometimes Screw You

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013


A reporter called, asking if she could interview Loren and me that same day about a topic. We said yes. I rearranged my schedule. Loren rearranged her schedule. Others provided us assistance in making available a third party location appropriate for the interview. After providing the interview, I persuaded another person to also talk to the reporter.

More than a week later, I asked the editor/producer if he knew when the story would air. He said he did not. Later that day, I had a conversation with the other person the reporter interviewed for the story. The other person said she was under the impression the media outlet decided not to move forward with the story. Her understanding was the outlet had decided a conflict of interest presented itself in this situation.

I contacted the same editor/producer again and asked if this information was true. He confirmed his boss killed the story after deciding a conflict of interest might exist. I asked him when he had planned to tell me about this decision. He said “eventually” and was hoping to take me to lunch. He apologized and took blame for the turn of events.

Debates about conflict of interest are typically not black and white. I do not want to spark that conversation about this particular situation. The more important topic is analyzing how the media outlet handled this case.

I often warn clients who rearrange their schedules for media interviews that breaking news can cancel or postpone their appearances. In this case, breaking news was not a factor. Management should have engaged in a deeper discussion beforehand about whether a conflict of interest existed. New facts about the story did not present themselves after the interview. This is just an example of people not properly communicating beforehand. Finalizing that decision after interviewing us implies a lack of respect for our time. Someone also should have informed us of the decision in a more timely fashion. Not doing so implies the media, often depicted as tough, weren’t tough enough to deliver the truth. Unfortunately, I have seen very similar circumstances unfold many times over the years. I remember once setting up a story between a TV station and someone to be interviewed. The TV station never showed up to the interview and never called to say why.

I believe most people in the media would acknowledge the irony of how poorly some of their peers communicate among each other. But I have also witnessed a culture of media entitlement. You sometimes get the impression you should feel blessed if the media call for an interview while understanding the media dictate the terms. This is what I infer in some cases, not all.

The media, no different than any other industry, have its members which promote dysfunction. Getting news coverage can have great rewards. But with those rewards come risks. You risk making much effort to accommodate someone for no reason. And you risk someone in the media mishandling that situation. This does not mean avoid collaborating with the media. This means build strong relationships with journalists you can trust, journalists who will respect your time and see you as a person, not simply another story to fill a space or time slot. Looking back, we should’ve known better.

Media Training In British Columbia: 14 Questions For Businesses Before Bracing For Breaking News

Monday, May 13th, 2013

In Victoria, British Columbia, safety expert Steven Adelman and I visit the Parliament Buildings. I later spoke about the media at the International Association of Venue Managers regional conference. One of the first issues I discussed with the audience was bracing for breaking news. I explained how I once covered an accidental shooting at a gun show. That story raises the following questions for business owners to consider before news breaks:

  1. If news breaks at your business and you’re not there, how quickly can someone contact you even on weekends? The accidental gun show shooting happened on a Saturday.
  2. Where will the media park their vehicles? We parked our vehicles wherever we could find a space. Would you corral the media into a specific location?
  3. How will the general feelings of your staff or clientele toward the media impact how you handle reporters? Most people I met at the gun show were suspicious of the media. However, some were more accommodating toward me because I worked at a Fox TV station.
  4. Will you or someone on your behalf answer questions from the media about the breaking news?
  5. How would you handle questions about information you don’t have or are not ready to give out?
  6. Will you be able to answer questions in plain English without sounding like a stiff spokesman obviously choosing every word carefully?
  7. Will you use the phrase “no comment”?
  8. Will you present yourself and deliver your words calmly or get caught up in the adrenaline of the moment?
  9. Will what clothes you wear matter? Should you dress like an executive or roll up your sleeves like someone hard at work gathering information? Will you wear jeans if news breaks on the weekends?
  10. How will you handle social media?
  11. How will you handle reporters who want to walk onto private property and interview witnesses and bystanders? The accidental shooting happened at a convention center. Do you clearly understand which areas are public and which are private? What authority do you have in this situation?
  12. How will you handle photographers who want to walk onto private property to shoot video related to the breaking news?
  13. How will you handle media who request to enter your business to shoot video inside related to the breaking news?
  14. Do you need media training or to put together a plan for your staff to prepare for any of these possibilities?


Media Relations: Channel 3, 25 Patients, 1 Busy Morning

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


A TV producer contacts us before 6am, asking if one of our clients could appear in studio for a live interview to discuss a topic in the news. When? The following morning.

It’s early but we text our client to notify him of this opportunity. As a TV reporter, when I needed to interview an expert, I contacted one person after another. Time was of the essence and I didn’t have time to waste. I wouldn’t wait hours for experts to confirm their availability. In this situation, we want to tell the producer “yes” as soon as possible.

We receive an unexpected text. The client says he can not make the appearance. He is booked solid the next morning with patients.

We’ve never had a client turn down such as opportunity. Turning down a producer’s request is risky. She may simply find someone else to interview and the next time she needs someone on short notice, she might not call us.

We explain to our client he can not turn down this opportunity. We explain the risks. He understands but rescheduling about 25 patients the day before would negatively impact his business. That’s also a risk he can not take.

Can we find a compromise? We offer the producer two options knowing she may turn them both down:  1) Can our client appear in studio much earlier in the morning, allowing him time to return to his practice for his appointments? 2) Instead of our client appearing in studio, can the station send a live truck to his practice for a live interview?  This would allow our client to momentarily step away from patients for a live interview instead of spending much more time driving to and from the TV station, which is not close to his practice.

The producer agrees to send a live truck, warning she might cancel the interview if breaking news pops up. But the next morning, the interview happens. We didn’t miss an important opportunity. Our client was flexible, having no issue with a TV crew visiting his practice on short notice during a busy morning. And the TV producer was flexible, willing to go to the story instead of it coming to her.

Some Media Are Like Men Staring At Women

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I know instantly when I’m talking to a man and his eyes begin to drift to the side like a vehicle starts to drift when its driver is on a cell phone. Often, the man is processing the attractiveness of a woman passing by. This phenomenon takes place even if I’ve engaged this person in a conversation about business, sports or world peace. It doesn’t take much to get distracted.

News stories are eye candy for journalists. For example, someone at a media outlet sent me a message about my pitch:  “They like your idea, should I give them your number?” But no one called.

Another reporter wrote me, “Hi Keith! We’d like to talk to your expert about —–. Could you please provide a name & number?  Thanks!”

When the reporter didn’t call that day, the client said, “FYI, no word yet from —-.”

A reporter actually called the next day, but the point is clients often don’t get the media’s mentality. For example, it was not uncommon for a TV station to give me a story and then re-assign me two more times within an hour. This is especially exasperating when I started calling people for interviews, hung up the phone and learned someone changed my story.

So consider some media like that man who finally gave you time for an important discussion. Just when you think you’ve sealed the deal, something else walks in and distracts him. The media like sexy stories and your hot idea is just one nice pair of legs away from being yesterday’s news.

Media Training: Lost For Words? So Turn It On And Watch

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

A TV station asked one of our clients to provide live analysis on the phone as soon as possible about breaking news. We didn’t know about the breaking news before the station called. And part of his analysis depended on seeing the scene. But driving to the scene was not a practical option. TV stations often want to show live video of big breaking news as much as possible. Not having much information won’t stop the live coverage. So TV stations often need witnesses and experts to provide analysis to fill airtime.

For his live phone interview, our client used the TV station as his eyes from afar. He turned on the TV station, which sent its chopper above the scene to provide live pictures. He provided analysis on the phone while staying in front of a TV and watching what the station was showing viewers. This idea seems simple. But some people, in the rush to prepare themselves to unexpectedly talk on live TV, may not immediately consider to actually turn on the TV (and turn down the volume) while speaking.

It wasn’t uncommon for TV stations to send me to breaking news and ask us to provide a live report as soon as we arrived. This allowed me little time to gather information. The stations wanted me live. They wanted live pictures. Whether or not I had concrete details to discuss wasn’t going to stop a live shot. In these situations, some reporters dig themselves into a hole by attempting to relay facts they don’t have. I would point and describe the scene. Maybe I didn’t have sufficient information, but I could describe what I was witnessing. And that was good enough to go along with live video.

You’ve heard of walk and talk. Consider this watch and talk.

Media Relations: Going Live On TV In 22 Minutes

Monday, February 4th, 2013
  • 11:41am: A TV producer calls me and tells me about an office shooting. She wants our client, venue safety expert Steven Adelman, live on the phone as soon as possible.
  • 11:45am: I leave voicemails for Steve and his wife. I also text both of them.
  • 11:48am: Steve calls me. I explain to him the sitiuation. We both Google the shooting to update ourselves on the breaking news. I read him a news story. I turn the TV to the news station requesting him and describe to Steve the live video of the scene. Steve is busy, but we both know you don’t turn down a TV interview especially for breaking news. You build yourself a reputation as being available anytime, anywhere.
  • 12:03pm: Steve goes live on the phone with the TV station, discussing the situation and potential security issues.

If you position yourself as an expert in your industry, the media over time will call you for interviews instead of vice versa. Those 22 minutes did not tick off as smoothly as they did by accident. Steve and I have discussed several times the importance of my ability to reach him in a hurry. And we’ve discussed no matter how much work is stacking up on his desk, he’s ready to go when asked.

A congresswoman once asked me if I knew why the media often ask her, instead of others in her political party, to appear on TV. She said the reason is because she responds “yes.” She is willing to wake up in the early morning hours and make herself available. Many other people do not. For the media, accessibility is half the battle. No excuses.

Most Shocking Reports From Election Night Coverage!

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Most Shocking Reports From Election Night Coverage!

“RT @APCampaign: ELECTION WATCH: At a polling station in the swing state of North Carolina, opinions differ” (Excellent insight!)

Inside Edition reported on actors who have played presidents.

MSNBC pointed out jazz was playing in the background at Romney headquarters.

MSNBC reported Virginia buys the most pick-up trucks.

MSNBC pointed out there always seems to be a Montgomery County somewhere.

NBC News discussed a trade industry article indicating money from campaign ads allowed local TV stations to buy weather centers and hire reporters.

Ridiculous Moments In TV News: Election Night Was Disaster Night For Me And Mister Big Sandwich

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I was reporting for a North Carolina TV station and my election night assignment led me to the big city of Charlotte. I was working in a smaller TV market, so as silly as it now sounds, I envisioned a night of standing side-by-side with the big boys and girls delivering live shots.

My efforts to embody the young, future correspondent were contradicted by my reality. I worked at a station with ratings so low, a sports coach might as well have delivered the cliche speech about playing the rest of the season for pride. That night, I worked with a photographer I hung out with on weekends. My everlasting image of him that evening is him relaxed back in the driver’s seat with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a gigantic sandwich. He was the happy-go-lucky, let’s-eat-and-be-merry one sitting next to the nerd in the passenger’s seat. While he chewed, I figured staring a little bit longer at my notes might give me the edge to make my night special. Even our car sucked. We weren’t headed down to Charlotte in a Tahoe or Explorer or some other SUV that might portray a scent of journalistic testosterone. We and that sandwich squeezed into the type of hatchback you might see a Steve Carell character in on the way to his first date. To anyone watching, we appeared as the TV news version of Dumb and Dumber.

When we finally arrived at that big Charlotte hotel, I’m sure I was sporting my long, London Fog trench coach that took my game up a notch. We eventually found our position on a platform where reporters deliver live shots while rubbing elbows. While other reporters cruised around the ballroom as if this were familiar territory, I paced, wondering what interview I might grab to make myself shine. I weighed the risks and moved our position to a hallway, figuring I’d increase our chances of catching the candidate for a sound bite or two. But all I remember from that brief side adventure is some punk telling me I didn’t look like a news reporter. I wanted to believe he meant I looked smarter then some of my Ken doll colleagues. However he probably implied I needed to get a haircut and stop looking like a fresh face right out of college.

As the night wore on, something unfunny (but funny now) began to develop. Our newsroom took live shot after live shot that night and even took our candidate’s speech live from a podium directly before us. But the station took those live shots from a national feed, not once turning to us to appear on air. That night taught me a lesson that repeated itself before my eyes time and time again. Some of the most disastrous and unrewarding nights for a journalist can come election night. That’s when stations throw all they’ve got at the TV. They pre-plan like crazy for a series of spontaneous events that eventually turn everything upside down within minutes. And that’s even before the avalanche of technical problems.

On the way home that night, I was the calm one. Election night was over like the roller coaster you once feared to ride. But Mr. Big Sandwich was now the angry one, ranting and raving about the illogical plan of shipping us out of town to ultimately not use us. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. It’s just another ridiculous moment in local TV news.