We seem to have a rash of public figures embarrassing themselves by lecturing reporters who dare to ask hard questions. Looks like it’s time for a refresher course on the rules of the game.
- Reporters don’t work for you, so they don’t take orders from you.
- They get to ask whatever they like, no matter what you’ve told them is “off limits.”
- They’ll quote your answer, whether it’s on or off topic. If you choose to rant, they can and will put the rant on TV.
- If you refuse to answer, they’ll quote or show your non-answer. If you storm off, they’ll report and show that. If you don’t want to look like an ass, don’t act like one.
- You don’t get to decide what the story is. They do.
- Nothing is really “off the record.” If you’re talking to a single reporter, he or she may agree not to use something in return for getting background information. But they can still use it. Don’t say anything — even off the record — you can’t live with in tomorrow’s paper.
- Reporters are people too. Like the rest of us, they’ll like you more if you smile and treat them with respect.
- The media always get the last word. Always.