Working with the media

SCRA and the Media

In this section of the SCRA wiki, we encourage SCRA members to share ideas, columns, letters to editors, op-ed pieces, tip sheets and other resources for dealing effectively and ethically with print, radio, web, and television media.

Lenny Jason shares his experience with a recent TV interview:

No doubt, you have heard of the recent impeachment of our former Illinois Governor. When I was approached about a month ago to do several interviews for our Fox TV channel and for WTTW, the public TV affiliate in Chicago, on our Governor's erratic behavior, I agreed to provide some comments. Although I was not an expert on this type of behavior, and in particular our governor's somewhat unusual reactions to the playing of the secret tapes of his efforts to gain resources for nominating a replacement for the vacant Illinois senate seat, I did feel that I might be able to suggest that this type of pay for play behavior could have been learned over time, and it might represent an exaggerated version of Chicago style politics.

On Monday, I was once again asked to comment on the WTTW, Chicago's
public TV affiliate, about the unusual behavior of our Governor. The
DePaul Media liaison called me at noon on Monday to inform me that I had
been requested to appear on the live TV show that night. I told the
DePaul Media liaison I would do it, and I later received a call from the
representative at the TV station. The person who preps interviewees said
to me that there would be two psychologists on the show, and that the
other psychologist felt that the governor was a psychopath. Hearing
this, my first reaction was to decline the offer to appear on this show,
as I was not interested in getting into a diagnostic debate on live TV
about the governor. However, it was now late in the day, and I had given
my pledge to the DePaul Media liaison to appear, and I felt obligated to
fulfill my obligation. I am still not sure if I did the right thing at
this critical moment.

In any event, I left a late afternoon clinical psychology faculty
meeting early to get to the TV studio, and my colleagues wished me well
for the upcoming show. I first went home, put a tie on to look a bit
more professional, and arrived at WTTW's studio at about 6:15 pm. I was
next ushered into a room that was filled with political officials who
were scheduled to appear on the show in order to discuss a variety of
issues concerning the impending governor's impeachment. Of course, being
a psychologist, many of the politicians in the room said that I would
have the most interesting role in dissecting what was clearly abnormal
or even potentially psychotic behavior. They might comment on the
politics and implications of a state now in deep debt due to
irresponsible governance, but they marveled at the opportunity I would
have to help the viewers really understand what was up with our erratic
governor. To say the least, I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

In this preparation room, I was seated next to the other psychologist,
and I wondered how I would deal with the issue of her making a diagnosis
of the governor being a psychopath from just what she had learned from
the media. In a sense, would such a pronouncement be a similar error as
the governor had been making, trying to govern through the media for the
past 6 years by making direct appeals to the public, and repeatedly
trying to gain the public's support for legislation as opposed to
directly negotiating with the legislature and trying to solve our
state's considerable problems. In a sense, by making a diagnosis of
being a psychopath just from what my colleague had viewed on the media,
would this not be comparable to the governor trying to deal with an
impeachment by making direct appeals to the public rather than directly
dealing with the legislators concerning their allegations. I certainly
did not want to embarrass my colleague, who I had not met before, but at
the same time, I knew that I would not be willing to confirm her
diagnosis, which would enable the TV viewers to so easily separate the
governor's actions and behavior from the type of pay and play behavior
that does so often occur in Chicago politics.

Next, on to the make up room, and for those who know me, I figured this
would take the least time. However, the make up artist commented that I
was a tougher person to deal with as my lack of hair would pose a
particular problem for the bright lighting, so I had to endure multiple
layers of make up, and of course, I complied, as I had no other choice.
I now also had to inhibit my desire to scratch my face due to itches
caused by all this make up.

Walking on the studio set, with lights brightly beaming, being sleep
deprived from the prior evening, and realizing that I had a challenging
mission in front of me, I knew that this would not be my best
performance, and I again wondered why I had agreed to do this interview.
Well, you have the set up, and for those that might like to see the
actual TV interview, and it is called "The Governor's Mindset"

I am sure that other members of our SCRA organization do receive
requests to comment on a variety of topics from reporters. Do we have
any policies or well developed practices on such requests? Should we
refuse to accept media interviews on topics where we are either not
familiar with the topic or have not conducted research in the area. I
imagine many of us do confront these types of situations, and I wonder
about how we might continue being advocates and change agents, and most
importantly true to our values, when in these types of somewhat
compromised situations.


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Post Date:
April 27, 2011
Posted By:
SCRA Web Admin

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