Night after night, we see stories on the local and national TV news about topics like obesity, alcoholism, drug abuse and mental illness.
The reporter’s narration accompanies generic film footage of people walking on a crowded sidewalk, or students making their way to class on a college campus.
No problem–except if the story happens to be about teen-age alcoholics, and the teen shown in the film footage is your daughter, who doesn’t have a drinking problem.
Former TV reporter Dennis Stauffer says he saw things like that happen occasionally when he worked as a reporter at a Minneapolis TV station.
That’s why he says you should make it clear to TV reporters that if they’re taking video of a controversial topic that involves you, you may want to demand that they use the video only once, and only for the agreed purpose.
“The more sensitive the topic, the more cautious you should be,” Dennis says in his book Mediasmart: How to Handle a Reporter by a Reporter available at Amazon. “If you’re being careful about letting a reporter or photographer have access in the first place, then you should be concerned about any future use of that material.”
When a reporter asks you to cooperate on a story, you may want to say, “I’ll do what you want, if…” and make one of the “ifs” an assurance that the video won’t be used for other purposes.
Tell the reporter to personally make sure that the video is not kept and that any sensitive shots are erased after the story airs.
That’s one thing you need to know when dealing with TV reporters, but there’s more. In fact, you should also know the difference between reporters who work for radio stations, newspapers, magazines, the wire services and Internet news outlets. They all have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Former reporter Al Guyant explains the distinctions and recommends “handling tactics” for each of them in “The Dangerous Hidden Secrets of Print and Broadcast Reporters.” It’s available as a cassette tape or CD, and each comes with a chapter from Al’s Book “Beat the Press” which you can download immediately and be reading in minutes.