DY: In Just a Few Words (#15)
Pretty sure I handled myself well, but I'll let you decide.
Chris Wallace came to Cleveland last fall to moderate the first of the Presidential Debates. This debate (many call it a debacle) occurred at the Cleveland Clinic, a client of mine for a number of years. The debate brought back into focus my experience with Chris’ father, the legendary TV journalist Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes fame.
If you Google the late Mike Wallace you may see this reference: .....interviewed a wide range of prominent newsmakers. Perhaps 25 years ago give or take a little I was in Boston at a conference and I was interviewed by Mike Wallace. I guess that qualifies me as a prominent newsmaker.
I media-trained prominent newsmakers including more than 100 administrators and physicians from the Cleveland Clinic. If you’re not familiar with media training, participants are taught different techniques to take control of interviews.
· Have a clear message.
· Get to the point.
· Prepare for likely questions.
· Keep your cool.
· Above all, take the interview process seriously.
Journalists – especially TV journalists – are famous for the so-called ambush interview where an unsuspecting target is surprised, indeed shocked to suddenly find a journalist in their face asking tough questions.
One day at the Boston conference about 7:40 in the morning I got on the elevator heading to the opening session. A couple of floors later, the elevator door opened and Mike Wallace got on. The ambush interview began immediately and without warning when he opened with the type of difficult question prominent newsmakers like me fear most.
Wallace: Have you had breakfast yet?
Me: Yes. (What was his agenda? Was he going to invite me to have a second breakfast? Did he want to know if I thought I had been poisoned?)
Wallace: What did you have?
Me: Some orange juice, a couple of eggs and wheat toast.
Wallace: I had room service breakfast, just toast and coffee. That’s all. They charged me $24 and I think that’s outrageous. What do you think?
Me: Yes sir, that sounds like a lot to me.
The interview ended abruptly as the door opened to the lobby. To his everlasting credit, Mike Wallace respected my time as a prominent newsmaker and did not ask me for an autograph.
Fortunately, I remembered all of the media training counsel I had provided others and I think I acquitted myself well. The interview did not air. It was a busy news day, lots going on. But, we all know it’s not unusual for shows like 60 Minutes to reach back in time and air at least a snippet of a long ago exchange. That may happen yet. Stay tuned.
Some people think Mike Wallace was an overly aggressive journalist, but my experience with him was just fine. I’m proud of the way I stood up to him that day. Others might have folded. Not me. What has become widely known as the Boston Exchange was a career highlight for me and I hope for Mike Wallace as well.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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