Tag Archives: tough news media interview

Memo Prime Minister – Leave The ABC Alone

So Tony Abbott used to be a journalist. I’m amazed then that he has come out swinging at the ABC, accusing it of virtually being biased against Australia – all because it didn’t give the Australian Navy the “benefit of the doubt” in its story about asylum seekers suffering burns as a result of mistreatment by the Navy.

If he was a fair dinkum journo (like I was when I did my cadetship at the ABC) then he would know that the role of the media in a democracy should be free, fair and fearless, as Michael Gordon put it in The Age today.

If Abbott intends taking the ABC down the state-controlled path we see in so many other countries then I would no longer wish to live here. And I wouldn’t be alone in that view either.

Stick to politics Tony and leave the reporting to our media, uncontrolled and not swayed by any nationalism or patriotism as you would like.

Media Training Staple for UK Public Servants

In all media training workshops I have run, I have always stipulated the very real need for people to speak in plain English – mainly so they can broaden their reach but also so they don’t bore or turn off the viewers, listeners or readers. Now, I see the British Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has ordered public servants in his department to write in plain English.

Gove, a former journalist himself, has introduced 10 guidelines to get bureaucrats to write in language that their mothers would understand. He said officials should introduce one idea per paragraph, use a sympathetic tone – and make sure they spell the recipient’s name correctly.

I say it’s not just bureaucrats who need such advice. Certainly in my experience with the corporate world and training their executives to handle media interviews, it’s a far more widespread problem – generally concentrated in middle management with less senior and more senior executives prone to speaking like the rest of us do, in plain English.

Media Training Needed To Combat Formality

Well here we are in 2013 and I notice that media training services are needed more than ever. Emergency service personnel seem to be talking more naturally in their TV interviews but there’s still media training work to be done. Generally, it’s the false perception by so many interviewees that formality is needed to communicate the gravitas of a situation – please bring back Ronnie Reagan to show these people how to use the whole gamut of expressions while communicating.

Speaking of formality, you can see doses of it if you watch Border Security on the 7 Network. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be the choice of the production company but more likely the Public Service attitude of the Customs people featured in the show – they are called “officers” constantly…..as in “Officer Sandy will now pat down the suspect” or “Officer Bill will Xray the bag”. Why it cant be just Sandy or Bill is beyond me. Sure they do an important job but you don’t have to make them sound so formal to communicate that job to us.

And the person who needs media training most so far this year – why, it ‘s the First Bloke who embarrassed his Prime Minister wife with an off comment about prostate examinations.

Plainly Egregious? Not In Our Media Training Workshops

Now I’ve seen it all – as far as Plain English is concerned (or not).

The Gillard government’s hand-picked human rights commissioner, Gillian Triggs has hit out at the detention of asylum seekers on Nauru, saying the indefinite detention of asylum seekers on Nauru is ”an egregious breach of international human rights law”.

But here’s the good quote from Professor Triggs: ”I have made my view really plain to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in saying that to detain people on this remote island, and delaying by at least six months their processing, and where they’re advised that they will be kept there for five years, is an egregious breach of international human rights law.”

I’m so glad she made it “really plain”.

If you apply my media training rule of “stop 10 people” and ask them what “egregious” means I don’t believe you’d find two out of the 10 who could tell you – the rule says therefore don’t use the word when speaking to the public via the news media.

For those other eight people,” egregious” means “extremely bad”. I would have thought “really bad” might have done the trick for an Aussie audience.

Handling Tough News Media Interviews

There’s non doubt about it, handling a tough electronic news media interview is not easy. I was reading only this morning how the Australian Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has been shirking such interviews when compared to Prime Minister Gillard. This year Abbott has appeared twice on The 7.30 Report compared to six times for Gillard; no appearances on Q&A but one for Gillard; one on Sky Agenda compared with four for Gillard and none on Meet The Press where Gillard appeared once.

Looking at the softer options, the tables are turned. Abbott has appeared 10 times on The Today Show while the Prime Minister has turned up only twice. Abbott also comes into his own on talkback and shock-jock radio with 16 appearances on 2GB (2 for Gillard); nine on MTR (0); 5 on 2UE (1); 9 on 2SM (2) and three each on 3AW.

This fear of Abbott’s for tough electronic news media interviews is not his alone. Most business people we media train share that fear. Those who undertake our media training workshops lose a lot of that fear because we put them through very, very tough interviews that are so realistic we’ve had participants not want to do a second interview. Not surprisingly, when they do, they give a much better performance thereby proving the value of media training when it’s carried out properly by people who have a strong history both in the media and in media training.