Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Not to Give an Interview or An Example of Why You Need to Be Careful with the Daily Show

Last year, Time Magazine famously asked, "Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is America's most trusted newscaster?" The answer: Jon Stewart, host of the "fake news" program, "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central. A majority of people responding to the survey in 36 states voted for Stewart ahead of Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric; and in the 14 states that ranked Williams (11 states), Gibson (2) or Couric (1) first, Stewart was consistently ranked as the second most trusted newscaster.

Even though he's a comedian.

The fact is that Jon Stewart isn't afraid to ask tough questions of his guests, whether Republican or Democrat. And he calls people on it when they're hypercritical or when they don't answer the question. And he does it while being funny, too.

I'm a big fan, but the reason for this post is a clip from an interview on Monday's show.

Look, if you're trying to take a serious stance on an issue, I don't know why you'd give an interview to the Daily Show -- especially when you represent the other side of an issue that the Daily Show is likely to support. I see it all the time, and I keep wondering if those people have seen the program before? I assume if an organization is involved that it does not have a PR person on staff because the PR person should be advising them not to agree to an interview.

But if people are going to ill advisedly agree to be interviewed by the Daily Show, PR functions should at least learn what not to do -- because these segments offer very funny examples for media training classes.

Case in point: a segment available here about the United Food & Commercial Workers of Nevada, Locall 711, a union that employs non-union labor in its protest against Wal-Mart. The spokesperson is asked if he knew that non-union members were protesting on behalf of the union.

He looks visibly awkward as he pauses before saying, with the cameras rolling, that he's trying to figure out how to answer the questions. This happens a couple of times during the segment.

And then the spokesperson is surprised to find out that the people the union is paying to protest low wages, no benefits and no job security complain that they themselves are getting low wages, no benefits and have no job security as they protest Wal-Mart on behalf of the union.

Just when you think it can't get worse, the union spokesperson blames Wal-Mart for setting a standard that other companies are following....That's when Aasif Mandvi "nails" the spokesperson, by pointing out the union is also following Wal-Mart's lead by offering low wages, no benefits and no job security.

A great segment. And a great lesson in why spokespeople need to be media trained.

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