29 January 2007

Telling the Story

This is the second piece contributed by reader and friend Robert Connolly. Bob's first post was Morale and our Mission.

There is a wonderful post at Andi’s World where she relates the difficulties of whether to accept MSM interview invitations. She notes the use of ambush tactics, and relates the tale of one soldier’s mother who was forced to hold her own in a very difficult situation. Andi also relates two other incidents in the same vein.

In my line of work (professor of finance and economics), I have had periods where I was fielding interview requests fairly frequently (sometimes several in a week). I won't do television interviews any more, and I have gotten pretty particular about print media requests, too. Why? I have been at this for a while now (1981 and counting), so I have had a chance to see changes in this print vs. television interviewing for a whole generation. In a nutshell, print media can occasionally be educated that their premise behind their questions (i.e., how the thought the story should work) was simply wrong. It is harder to persuade them now than it was 25 years ago, but it can be done. That's why I will talk to some of them.

In my experience, local television reporters are absolutely worthless. They are all invariably pretty (even the men), but have no grasp of anything more complex than a lunch menu. So, when your answers don't fit the script, they will walk away, or even worse, edit the interview in such a way as to twist words to fit their script. That's why I won't do interviews with them any longer. Period. No. More.

[Sidenote: I did a interview with a producer for Aaron Brown’s since-cancelled evening news program on CNN right after Hurricane Katrina. It was OK, but it took a while to get them off their tangent. Now, if they called me for any reason other than to apologize profusely for putting jihadist propaganda on the air and to beg forgiveness for such a callous and traitorous act, I would tell them, GO. TO. HELL!]

In my line of work, there really isn't anything all that serious at stake. If I had responsibility for speaking about military families and related issues, I think I would feel really stuck. Local television isn't to be trusted (I suspect most people with direct military connections might feel the same way about the network reporters, too), but how are we to tell the stories that need telling? Radio, newspapers, and movies did this sort of work in WWII, so the issue never arose in quite the way we see now. Blogs are great, but way too many people rely on local and network television news programs for an understanding of issues. The Department of Defense has been wrestling with these issues, but has not been successful in providing a regular, credible alternative to local and MSM television nonsense.

Perhaps you might have suggestions and ideas on how to handle these situations. If you do, drop by Andi’s World and leave your thoughts. We should be helping out those who speak so eloquently in the cause of supporting our military personnel and their families.

Bob can be reached via email or you may leave him a comment below.

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