Small Business Trends Radio

A Reporter Calls: Ask This Question

Whenever a member of the media calls your number, you, the Small Business Owner must be prepared.

And if your business is doing business, you will get calls.

Reporters ask questions. But the interview should start with a question from you. Here’s the first question you should ask a reporter who calls you,


The Dreamer,
Jack, c.1995

“Hello Mr. Journalist, I’m glad you called. Am I a target or a source?”

Your Business Blogger has had the misfortune of being both.

In any conversation with a reporter you are either Richard Nixon, or Deep Throat — a target or a source. You are not a friend.

Repeat after me:

Not a friend.

And it is often difficult to determine hidden agendas. But you can be prepared by knowing what kind of person is on the other end of the phone.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, named his show after his book (for which he received a well deserved $75k book advance). Chris tells us how most reporters get started in their careers.

Their entry-level job begins with covering the police blotter on the night shift. This is where journalists become inhuman.

Whenever there is a tragedy — a death, a dismemberment, anything that bleeds — the cub reporter is dispatched to the home of the grieving family.

He knocks on the door of the home of the dead one and secures a picture of the recently deceased from the crying mother/father/widow/spouse/sibling.

“I’m sorry about your dead daughter. Can I have a picture of your precious little girl for gawkers and trolls?”

Thank you for the picture. Have a nice day.

Three days later the girl’s face in the newspaper looks up from the bottom of a bird cage.

The reporter on the other end of the phone does this for a living. He does not care about you — only the story — the journalist soon becomes calloused and cynical. And he looks for blood even if he has to do the cutting.

The sole exception, of course, is Anita Campbell. Even though she’s trained as a lawyer, she still has her humanity.

And if she calls, you have your first question.

Am I a target, or a source? 

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