Did I Really Say That? Why Every Word Matters

Posted on March 22, 2011 
Filed Under General

There have been so many great sound bites coming out of the media lately, it’s been an embarrassment of riches for content curators.  Charlie Sheen alone is entertaining us with better one-liners than his “Two and Half Men” writers could ever conjure.  What should be irritating and instructional to PR professionals is when a well-tested script or sound bite gets taken out of context, not just in an article or on the radio, but on TV in those very helpful “calls outs” that run across the screen as the subject is being interviewed.  They are highly distracting and cater to the supposition that viewers aren’t really listening and need the producers to spoon feed them what they deem you need to remember.  This is where a well-intentioned or even irrelevant quote can get twisted and garbled. Case in point is a recent interview by Larry Kudlow on the Kudlow Report, where Trump (who’s entertaining a run for President) was speaking about various topics including the Japan crisis and nuclear dependency.  Watch the video and see for yourself how the producers are uploading Trump quotes by the nano-second, and if you were to walk into the room and glance at the TV, you”d think Trump was declaring:  “I’m a big fan of nuclear power.” That’s what was running across the TV screen, caught in the act of “out of context” reporting.  Trump went on, contritely, to say that “maybe we have to start reassessing just a little bit this whole attitude on nuclear.”

So that is an example of how every word and cluster of words need to be chosen wisely because they will be extracted and exploited for the sake of media ratings, more web site traffic, more readership, more tweets, etc.  It’s the nature of the beast. On the flip side, and staying on the topic of nuclear energy, there are times when people say things and you think, that must be taken out of context. And it isn’t.  She really said it. To wit, Ann Coulter last week on The O’Reilly Factor espoused the benefits of radiation: “There is a growing body of evidence that radiation in excess of what the government says is actually good for you and actually reduces cancer.”  Coulter surely sticks to her knitting and remains polarizing and controversial. The media covered it with passion and her media trainers, I’m guessing, were running for cover.

- Diane Schwartz

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