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  • We Interrupt This Commercial for a Program

    When you do a media interview — you don’t have to answer all of their questions — but you should answer some.  The train wreck of an interview below shows what happens when the interviewer — and the interviewees goals and expectations don’t meet.

    If you are using your celebrity to peddle some message, at a minimum you need to let the media ask you a little about whatever it was that made you famous in the first place.

    Mets pitcher Matt Harvey missed that point.

  • Ex-QB Blindsided by SI Interview

    Famous athletes are accustomed to having reporters follow them around looking for quotes.  But Aso Pogi, who played quarterback for Oklahoma State University for a couple years — more than a decade ago is hardly a big name.

    Sports Illustrated is rolling out a five-part expose on OSU football.  The segments (not all of which have been posted yet) are titled:  “The Money,” “The Academics,” “The Drugs,” “The Sex,” and “The Fallout.”  Even without reading it — you can guess it is not a puff piece.

    SI says the series is the result of a ten-month investigation.  But Pogi is among those who claim the magazine rushed to judgment.

    Pogi, who is now a youth pastor at the United First Methodist Church in Lawton, OK, says he was teaching Bible study last week when SI journalist Thayer Evans showed up unannounced wanting to speak about (OSU) Cowboy football.

    According to the Tulsa World:

    Pogi says he “was like, ‘man, we’re doing bible study.’” And figured (the story) was something about current OSU football, so he said “‘why don’t you just step in my office real quick and we’ll see what’s going on.’”

    He now says that he never understood that he was granting an interview.  There was no note pad and no tape recorder evident.  Evans spun a tale about misdeeds from days gone by and Pogi says it was all news to him.

    But when the story came out this week he is quoted in it confirming things which he says he did not say — and that his comments were taken wildly out of context.  Unless Evans had a hidden microphone — we’ll never know.

    But the incident drives home one of the basic rules — NEVER do an interview cold — without taking time to research who the interviewer is, what he or she wants, and refreshing your memory on the facts.  If the interview is about anything contentious — insist on recording it yourself for your own protection.

    Pogi had a perfect out — “Hey, man.  I am teaching Bible study here. Send me an email with what you want to talk about and perhaps we can set something up.”

    Not An Actual Church Sign

    If the reporter claimed that he was on deadline — the perfect response would be “How long have you been working on this story?” (Answer close to a year.) “And you come to me with zero time to decide if I want to participate? Obviously I am not very important to your story — so maybe next time.”

    OSU supporters now say that many of SI’s sources are disgruntled players who were dismissed from the team — some of whom are now in prison.  That doesn’t make their information necessarily wrong — but it makes it suspect.

    Presumably the University had advance knowledge that the series was coming — and owed it to their former players to give them a heads up.

  • Broken Off-the-Record

    FishBowl DC has a post out today showing (in a huge surprise to absolutely no one) that even respected national reporters can’t agree on what “off-the-record” means.


    Toby Harden, the bureau chief of London’s Sunday Times, opines that he could “use the information but not attribute it to anyone by name or affiliation or quote it directly.” (To many people — that would be known as “deep background” not off-the-record.)

    Susan Page, the Washington Bureau Chief, USA Today, comes closer to the appropriate definition (in our view) saying to her: “…’off the record’ means you can’t use the information in a story and you can’t use the information in reporting – for instance, going to a second source and asking him or her to confirm what you learned off-the-record from the first source.” But she adds that often the source THINKS they as asking for “deep background” – the Harden version of off-the-record above and after some conversation reporter and source can agree on the material being used somehow.


    The lesson for 15-Seconds clients is that it is VERY dangerous to enter into these kinds of negotiations.  The safest thing is to always remain on the record.  If you must go on background — have an explicit conversation with the reporter every time you do so — and make absolutely sure that everyone agrees on the attribution.

    The risk of a reporter taking the Harden approach (above) and thinking your off-the-record comments are really on background is too high to justify going off-the-record in most cases.

    Misunderstanding ground rules has destroyed countless careers of government officials and business leaders.  Leveraging that misunderstanding has made the career of a handful of prominent journalists.