Alasdair Thompson verdict highlights media training lesson

Posted April 13, 2012

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) decision not to uphold a complaint by Alasdair Thompson over the infamous "women's problems" interviews reinforces an important media training lesson. Thompson claimed last year that women take more sick leave than men because of period pain. This led to intense media scrutiny, done more so than on TV3. His complaint to the BSA covered a number of areas, but the major one was that the interviews on 3 News and Campbell Live were unbalanced and unfair, particularly since the whole interviews were not shown. In other words, he is saying because only snippets of the full interviews were broadcast, his views were not fairly reflected. From a media training perspective, this is a common trap people fall into. Clearly only parts of the interviews were used. From memory, the Campbell live story lasted about 5 minutes, but the pre broadcast interview lasted about 28 minutes. I know this because both versions were placed on the TV3 website. But that is how journalism works. There is only so much time or space available to tell a story. It's impossible to include the whole interview in a story. And the media are always going to use the most newsworthy material from that interview. That's of course unless it's live. In this case, my media training advice to Thompson would have been to front with John Campbell live. This way there would be no room for editing. But returning to the complaint, this issue offers a media training lesson for anyone who may appear on television news. Because a media interview is like no other conversation, media training is vital. Unlike a speech or any other type of communication, you can talk to a jornalist for 30 minutes, but only a few minutes of that will ever be used. This is exactly what happened to Thompson. If this was a speech and people heard his whole story (or the whole interview), he clearly would have looked better because he would have the opportunity to fully explain himself and build one point on another. But that was never going to happen in a media context. As I said earlier, only the juicy bits will be used. To counter this, you need to know how to make sure it's the points you want to make that appear in the story. The Thompson case shows how badly this can affect someone if not handled properly. This is a major reason why anyone who could be called on by the media needs to be ready. Media training gets them ready and shows them how to take control of interviews and get their points used, rather than leaving that decision to the journalist or presenter.
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