Print vs. Television
(or watch out for the reporter with the pencil)

Most of our students have a great fear of reporters with mikes in hand and cameras pointed at them. This is certainly understandable. It is an intimidating moment. Then, if the story runs, you have to endure watching yourself. This is often deceptive. We may look just fine to others, but as we watch we remember all the fear we were feeling and see it with a distorted view.

What may surprise you is that it is our professional opinion that print tends to be much more difficult and often is more dangerous. Print interviews, by their very nature, are longer and involve many more questions. The quotes are not longer than on television but there will be more of them. We are relying on the print reporter to have heard our responses correctly and to quote us accurately. In reality we often see quotes that are in fact paraphrases or what the reporter thinks we have said. It even happens that a reporter will make a statement and get a positive response from you and then quote you as having made the statement.

Another area of concern is the environment in which you find yourself being interviewed. If there are mikes and/or cameras you operate at the top of your game and recognize the dangers. With print the interview most times will be by telephone. You will be in your familiar office where you spend time on the phone with all sorts of people all day. It is easy to lose sight of the critical nature of what you are saying to that reporter on the other end of the line.

Finally, there is need to understand that print lives. You don’t see videotapes tacked on bulletin boards. You do see that happen with newspaper or magazine articles all the time. Then there is the ability of reporters to access databases. A story printed about you or your company several years ago can pop up in a database search and provide material for a reporter to include in a current story. We have a client that had an inaccurate fact reported four years ago. We know when that fact appears in a current story that the reporter found that article in a search and took it to be accurate.

What this all means is that:

  • You cannot take print lightly
  • You must maintain your discipline throughou
  • You must make your statements very strong and easily understood
  • Key messages need to be repeated often so the reporter can’t miss them
  • And, of course, you must recognize the cardinal rule: if you don’t want to see it and you don’t want to hear it, don’t say it.


make the story go away
cabinet member
statistical case
print vs. television