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Gareth Hughes breaks cardinal media training rule

26 April 2013
Green Party MP Gareth Hughes has broken one of the most basic media training rules by asking an advisor how he should answer a question during a taped TV interview. This is a perfect example of why you should take nothing for granted in a media interview. He must have assumed that part of the interview would be edited out of the final story. He was wrong. We always tell our media training clients to assume the camera is always on. But what makes this more remarkable is that Hughes knew it was rolling. It was mid-way through the interview. There have been many examples where people have said things they shouldn’t after an interview. They have assumed that everything from that point on is off the record. Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley fell into this trap just before the 1999 General Election when she revealed off camera that she had made up a figure when asked how much former newsreader John Hawkesbury had been paid out in a golden handshake. Often our media training clients ask us about going off the record. While this is done by seasoned media experts who know and trust the reporter they reveal information to, I advise people to avoid this just about every time. The problem is that off the record can mean different things to different people. It may mean the reporter can’t use the information at all, can use it but not attribute it to anyone, or attribute it to a general person such as “A senior minister”. Don’t forget an editor may also overrule the reporter, while in serious legal situations, a Judge can demand a reporter reveal the source or go to jail. But from a media training perspective, never do what Gareth Hughes did. In this situation, the reporter had every right to use the footage. Gareth Hughes media training mistake

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Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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