Talking to a news reporter can be scary. I used to be one and I still sometimes feel queasy being on the receiving end of the questions.
Anxiety about interacting with news media today is probably higher than it was in the past. I attribute part of this to social media. Knowing that a slip of the tongue or a misquote could be whirling around the digital world within minutes is unnerving.
Regardless, the news media is important to the perception of dairy farming, so there are times when farmers need to overcome their fears and connect with a reporter. June Dairy Month is typically one of those times. Farm breakfasts and other events generate a lot of interest from the media. And that’s a good thing considering the growing disconnect between agriculture and the general public. We have a terrific opportunity to make inroads and should take advantage of it.
So, for those of you who might be in line for an interview, I offer a few tips that could make the experience less frightening.
Ask questions: You should know what you’re getting into before agreeing to participate. When you get a call from a reporter, ask for the focus of the story, how much he or she knows about the topic, who else is being interviewed, whether the interview will be on the phone or at the farm and how long it will last.
Be prepared: It is always wise to collect your thoughts before sharing them. Ask the reporter if you can call back in an hour, and use the time to think about the topic and what you would like to share. Jot down some points and examples, including personal experiences to illustrate the issue. Think of the interview as a conversation with a reader who isn’t familiar with what you do and, more importantly, why you do it.
Stay focused: Now that you have prepared for the story topic, don’t stray or you might end up down a rabbit hole. Sometimes a question will come up that you don’t have an answer for; simply say so and move on. Also, remember there is no such thing as “off the record,” including when chatting before and after the interview. A reporter can’t “unknow” something you say that you wish you hadn’t, and it might wind up in the story even by accident.
Be confident: Remember that the reporter is coming to you because what you know is valuable for the story. So, speak with confidence and authority – but kindly, of course. Think about how the reader will perceive what you are sharing.
Follow up: Be courteous by sending a reporter an email or calling after the interview. Ask if anything needs to be clarified. Providing a handout or email with basic facts and figures about your farm is also helpful and helps ensure the story will be accurate. And don’t forget to say thank you.