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Friday, November 03, 2006

How not to interview on NPR

I think Representative Tom Reynolds (R-NY) needs media training, badly. NPR aired his interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep today, and the interview is a good example of how not to interact with the media. Here's an NPR brief about about the interview, and the audio clip is expected to be posted later this morning.

I think Reynolds did three things wrong. First, he refused to do anything except repeat his talking points, which essentially insisted that the only issues that matter in his election are local (jobs, taxes and Social Security). Having talking points is fine, and using them to guide your response to questions is fine to a point. Much like many of the Bush administration's spokespersons and the President himself, though, he refused to acknowledge anything except his talking points. He rebuffed questions about Iraq repeatedly, and his answers came off as insincere and scripted lines, not conversation.

Second, he quickly became defensive when Inskeep continued to try to get him to answer specific questions. It's a challenge to maintain your composure in an interview, but losing it rarely is successful. Inskeep's full 20-minute interview with Reynolds was not aired today, but you can bet that NPR selected the most engaging 60 seconds or so of it to broadcast. The selection was the part where Reynolds became increasingly defensive and lashed out at Inskeep. Gotcha.

Third, Reynolds ducked out of the interview by claiming that he was late for a meeting. That may even have been true, but cutting an interview short by blaming your watch only makes you look like you're running for cover. (I'm pretty sure Reynolds was, by that point.)

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