When I was the OSHA spokeswoman, I arranged an interview for my boss with NBC’s Dateline. They were doing a story about a young man who had died in a grain silo. The victim’s father believed that the farm where his son worked was responsible for his death, and that OSHA had not meted out strong enough punishment (aside: what is enough when you have lost your child?) I worked with the producers for months before the interview was scheduled, and prepped my boss for hours the day before. The interviewer would be Lea Thompson, a woman famous for her razor sharp techniques.
Not really. She was famous because her daughter asked President Clinton what kind of underwear he preferred. When Ms. Thompson began her questioning, my boss was calm, sympathetic, and articulate. Then Ms. Thompson began to cough. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she sputtered as she took a sip of water. “Let’s do that again.” And again, my boss answered her questions well. Then, unbelievably, she coughed again, and started again. My boss at this point was visibly aggravated, and starting to wilt under the hot lights. Which version do you think they used in the story that aired? (Important lesson: I should have stepped in and stopped the interview after the first episode, knowing they had what they needed.)
I tell this because my disgust with the media may have reached a new high this week. Here in Marblehead, we have sailboat racing every weekend during the summer. Heck, every night of the week, really. Last weekend, a man fell overboard and died. In the aftermath of the tragedy, local news outlets have carried stories that include mostly misinformation. None of it is terribly critical; most of it can be chalked up to a local law enforcement organization trying to pump its own tires. Fine. But when other outlets pick up the news item wholesale, it becomes annoying. It’s just lazy, especially when another reporter then slaps their name on the article, as if any reporting has been done at all! Today’s Globe capped it. In a mercifully brief article about the event, I am quoted as “Byrne.” I am not identified as the Chair of the Marblehead Racing Association, the organization that sponsors all the one-design racing here. I am not identified as the Chair of the Eastern Yacht Club Race Committee. I am not even identified as Cheryl. I am sure this is due to an editing error, but really?
Maybe I need to look at this as an opportunity. I could become a one-named performer like Cher, or Liberace. My first album could be “First Degree Byrne;” my second “Byrne Notice.”
And my advice about local news? Byrne before reading.
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