A few years ago I did a short sound-bite for national television news. As media spokesperson for our organisation, I had to provide comment on a tragic incident that had dominated the media that day. It wasn’t my first or only such interview.
The reporter and cameraman arrived at our offices. The reporter chatted to me while the cameraman set up his camera in the corner of the room. Reporter and I stood next to each other, like the two old men in the Muppets. She and I engaged in small talk without looking at each other. If I’d been a guy, I guess I would have hooked my thumbs into my belt, altered my stance to an at ease one, and with chin down I would have looked through the top of my eyes and spoken in a slightly deep, nasally version of my own voice. I did the female version of that, and stood with bent elbows and hands on the back of my hips.
Cameraman gave us the go, and we sat down, did a quick sound check and made sure I was sitting within good eyeshot of the camera. Reporter asked me a few questions. I stumbled over my words a bit to begin with but knew that would be edited out. I knew what message I needed to get across, and I knew that I needed to use snappy, information-rich sentences because, heck, I’d probably get 15 seconds of airtime. I knew all of that. What I hadn’t thought about was …
Watching television news that night, with customary cushion in front of face because I hate watching myself in any kind of video, my heart started racing as the piece came up. As the news anchor read the back story, what should come on screen but her nibs with hands on hips… And with the gormless expression of one engaged in small talk. Like a Muppet. It seemed like I was on the screen like that for hours before they cut to the interview, which, by the way, came across just fine. (Although why don’t they use soft focus and bring a make-up person along with them? Just asking.)
I know the golden rules of there being no such thing in dealing with the media as off the record and that when doing television interviews, you watch what you say from the moment the camera starts rolling because anything can be used. What I hadn’t thought about was that the camera was rolling as the cameraman was setting up, and I was caught with my, well, hands on hips. And it didn’t look too good. Or elegant. I was just glad I hadn’t had an inelegant scratch or picked my nose. Not that I would, but just imagine?
Fast forward to two weeks ago, and my blog post about the Van Morrison concert. Effusive would be an insipid term for my descriptions of the man and the concert. That blog post, in its entirety and, fortunately with correct attribution and a link to my blog, appeared on a Van Morrison news blog that day. I still can’t decide whether I am thrilled about that or not.
And here’s the thing: in my blog post, I wrote about the “chirpy Dutch chappy in checked shirt” who sat next to me and helped me with the song titles. He read my blog post on the other site. He commented after the post, “Hey Sunshine in London, I’m the cheery Dutch guy you wrote about. I didn’t realise you were writing a review, let alone that you would mention me.”
I sat open-mouthed as I read that, thinking how grateful I was that I had written what I had about him. What if the “stiff-lipped English couple” on the other side of me had read that blog post? They could well have, I don’t know.
When I got to my zumba class last week, the first person I locked eyes with was the person I had described, a few weeks back, perhaps not as well as I could have. Actually, I wrote that she couldn’t dance. I smiled coyly at her and slunk to the back of the class thinking, “I-hope-she-doesn’t-read-my-blog-I-hope-she-doesn’t-read-my-blog.” I guess there is no reason she would, but who knows?
The beauty of blogging and citizen journalism is that everything is out there. We all have our opinions, and we all comment on social issues, events, political issues, whatever takes our fancy. But the flipside of it is also that everything is out there. Here in the UK, with CCTV cameras everywhere, there is also someone watching you all the time – just ask the thoughtless cat in the wheelie bin lady.
My television news interview that day was a lesson to me. And I introduced it into my media training workshops for my colleagues, much to their amusement. The Van blog post incident was a lesson to me too. I tend not to write about friends or family; I don’t want anyone to think they have to watch their words because what they say will end up in my blog. I tend also to write within the boundaries of my interests and knowledge, and heck, if it makes me laugh and falls within these boundaries, I’ll write about it. My intention is never to mock or be nasty, but living my life out loud in this way means anyone – and everyone – can read what I write.
So here I stand, with hands on hips, not wanting to censor the fun out of my blog posts, but wanting to acknowledge the public face of blogging. It just makes me think.
Sunshine signing off for today.