Whenever the press calls it always gets me off my game. Especially when I don’t pass the phone interview stage. It’s hard to get focused back on work. I see why a lot of my colleagues in the greater academic community don’t take press calls, but I sort of feel like it’s part of my job to spread truth and light to the general public. If only I were as good at explaining complicated things as Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Maybe after tenure I’ll polish up some soundbites and practice them like he recommends.
#2 never gets phone calls from the press, because they took my office phone away in a budget cut.
Do you talk to the press? And how related to your area of expertise does it have to be for you to say something?
July 27, 2011 at 3:15 am
I’m not allowed to talk to the press by my employer. That is reserved for the marketing communications people at work. It’s one of those things that get drilled into us and now I’m scared to death to be put in print. I think blogging is a way to get over that phobia.
July 27, 2011 at 12:51 pm
Also not allowed to talk to the press at work. Barely even allowed to talk to parents (FERPA). I’ve learned to tell parents things like, “You know, a lot of times when students don’t tell their parents their grades, it’s because the grades are not good. I’ve even heard of people who fooled their parents into thinking they were attending college for years after they quit. It’s perfectly reasonable to require evidence of someone’s progress before paying out more of your money.”
At fairs and whatever, I really don’t want to talk to the press. I’m not suave or anything and I’m not a fan of fame, so I almost want to pick my nose or something to make sure they won’t use any film that has me in it. When I do see camera people, I do try to think ahead of time what I would say if someone asked me a question. Occasionally I do come up with something. But fortunately I don’t actually get bothered, probably because I’m not photogenic.
Frankly, whenever I’ve read an article about something I already know, it’s always bad. Sometimes they picked out such bizarre aspects to talk about that I wonder if they were at the same event. Sometimes it’s clear that they didn’t talk to anyone who knew anything, just people who were near people who knew things. Occasionally they get things so twisted up that they are saying the exact opposite of what really happened. At best, the story gives the exact right impression being basically right and having only a few unimportant details wrong.
So, I know some reporters are good, but in general, I don’t trust them with a ten-foot pole. I sometimes fantasize about responses for obviously icky reporters. “How does that make you feel?” “The combination of this tragedy and your question makes me feel suddenly violent. In your general direction.” See? Not that great. Better just to hide.
July 27, 2011 at 5:58 am
I talk to the press, but for the most part it’s just local press. I’ve done on-camera interviews with the local PBS station, filmed interviews with journalism students, local newspaper interviews and photo spreads, and been interviewed on local radio programs, too. None of these interviews had anything to do with my job, so even though I am not allowed to talk to press about work (like FGA) I still get the experience and pleasure of talking about something I really like to talk about: keeping backyard chickens. This subject area isn’t something I can claim to be a professionally trained expert in, but that’s not what the press was looking for when they requested an interview. I’m comfortable with public speaking due to these experiences, which I think is a good outcome.
July 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm
That’s totally cool! Go you (and your chickens).
July 27, 2011 at 7:44 am
LIke the others, I’m not allowed to talk about my work to the press. That would almost certainly get me fired. I’ve signed various non-disclosure forms and the like- which is why I also don’t blog directly about my work.
July 27, 2011 at 9:49 am
I talk to the press, but it does have to be pretty related to my area of expertise before I’ll pontificate, especially if my department has someone who actually is better suited. This is one of the perks (I guess) of living in NYC–all the media is concentrated here, so they call us up a lot. I’ve been on Good Morning America, and quoted in the NY Times, Forbes, and Time Out New York. (I’m not listing this to brag, mostly because I’m marveled that these people think I might be an expert in something.) Colleagues in my department have been on NPR and in the New Yorker (that I know about). I too agree that we have some duty to be public intellectuals, especially if we’re getting government funding at all.
July 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm
I would talk to the press (#2 here) if they EVER asked anything even REMOTELY related to my area of expertise. Unfortunately the few times I have been contacted, it’s about some topic that MIGHT share some of the same letters in its name as any of my areas of knowledge… I would like to spread accurate knowledge but it is so TIRING fighting the waves of misinformation at every step.
July 27, 2011 at 10:00 am
I once got interviewed on teevee when I happened to walk by the scene of a fatal car accident.
July 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm
July 27, 2011 at 10:33 am
I talked to the press a fair bit when I was involved in the fight against prop 8 (the proposition in CA that got rid of gay marriage). They were intrigued that a middle-eastern athiest newlywed was out fighting for gay marriage. I think I provided some good sound bites, but it isn’t hard when you are speaking truth against fear.
July 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm
Hooray and three cheers for you!
July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm
I’ve never had the honor. I’d probably eat it up though. ;)
July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm
I’m not even close to that level of being called by the press. I got my first post picked by Inside Higher Ed yesterday, though. You have to start by something.
July 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm
Congrats! Perhaps you will get more traffic and increasing fame!
July 27, 2011 at 3:07 pm
I always come out sounding like an idiot when I talk to the press and they write it — not because their writing is bad but because I say “like” and “um” too much and they like to use direct quotes. Or they try to follow my convoluted thinking-out-loud quasi-narrative and fail to see that the brilliant point I was *trying* to make was the last thing I said, and they reproduce the whole thing. Or things like that. I’ve actually never been called by the local press on things related to my field (even when they’re doing a feature on the Beowulf movie and I’ve written to them and said, “Heh! Call me!”), but I’ve been interviewed about non-academic things.
*However*, I did do on-screen introductions to a medieval-related tv show on the local PBS station. But those I got to research and write myself and read from a teleprompter, so I carefully controlled the message and presentation.
July 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm
July 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm
I *am* the press! ;-) I’m grateful that professors and other sources will speak with me.
But I have to say it feels WEIRD to be on the other side of the notebook/tape recorder/microphone. Now I know how my interviewees feel: A little nervous about sounding goofy somehow.
July 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm
In our defense, we *are* kinda goofy! Keep up the good work though.
July 27, 2011 at 9:20 pm
#1 is still waiting for you to discover her IRL. She figures it will happen some day and you will be surprised with the reveal.
July 27, 2011 at 7:54 pm
So far, I’ve only had one opportunity to speak to the press. I was one of five people interviewed for reactions to some major goings-on in the part of the world that I research. I tried super-hard to be clear and non-sensational about the situation on the ground when the reporter asked me some rather silly questions that seemed to designed to provoke “ZOMFG its crazzzy dood!” reactions. Upshot: out of five people interviewed, I was the only one whose answers did not appear at all in the final product.
July 28, 2011 at 4:10 am
There’s nothing better than talking to an articulate expert who knows how to break down concepts in layperson terms. Just saying :)
July 28, 2011 at 4:46 am
I know! I’m not there yet.