Many posts ago, I suggested ways that one might be able to avoid talking to reporters when their place of employment is “in the news”. I also asked people to guess which one of the methods was the one that I endorse. You can read about it and still enter your guess, here.
Now for the answer . . .
Growling. It works every single time. No one wants to talk to you if you growl. It can be so unsettling. It is also very effective. It is not, however, what I did in real life. I am many things, but “growler” is not one of them. Just Evil.
My experience with avoiding reporters happened when I was representing a large city at trial in a case based on gender-based discrimination and harassment. Did you notice how, unlike so many lawyers might have done, I did not use the word “alleged” before “gender-based discrimination” in that first sentence? There’s a reason.
To use a highly technical legal term, the case was a “loser”. Mistakes had been made. Big mistakes. The City simply could not settle the case because the plaintiff demanded millions of dollars. The plaintiff was going to win but she was not going to win millions. Off we went to trial so a jury could decide. My only direction was, “Don’t screw it up anymore than it already is.” With motivation like that, how could I fail?
The plaintiff’s lawyer smelled a tremendous marketing opportunity. He contacted the local media to alert them to the prospect of a huge verdict coming against the city. Reporters and television cameras arrived. I gave up any secret hope for a victory when every member of the jury teared up when the plaintiff told her story. Hell, I teared up. Even a few of the reporters got a little weepy. That really scared me.
It scared me more when I saw that the jury, reporters and possibly even the judge were glaring at me. I represented the bad guy in the story and it seemed as though they despised me. And soon, I realized, some of them would want to interview me. Here’s what went through my mind at that moment, in about the same order as it hit my brain:
- T.V. cameras add 25 pounds. That’s going to be a problem.
- Thank goodness I did not have the poppy-seed bagel today.
- I wish that I’d worn my nicer tie.
- I wonder what they’ll ask me.
- Oh crap.
That’s pretty much verbatim.
I knew that I did not want to be that person you see on television who says “No comment.” It always sounds like they are really saying “I’m scum” or “It’s worse than you think.” I also did not want to even try to put a positive spin on the positively un-spinnable. If I had been that good at magic tricks, I would have been doing shows in Vegas.
After the judge dismissed everyone for the day, I saw the reporters heading toward me before I had formulated a plan for dealing with them. Those of you who have already read The Near Death of Evil Skippy know that I am able to keep my cool in tough situations. By “keep cool”, I mean come up with Survival Lies.
Before any of the reporters had a chance to ask a question, I held up my hand and winced a little.
“I’m really, really sorry,” I said, trying to sound ever-so-slightly in pain, “but I really, really need to use the restroom. Would you all wait just a minute so I can – you know – and then have time to answer your questions? Thanks!”
I scurried down the hall and around the corner before anyone could say no. I then ran past the restrooms, down the stairs, out of the building and three blocks to my office building. Where I used the rest room.
I wasn’t lying about needing to “go”.
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