What to wear when talking to the media: the blue, button-down Oxford or my favorite Harley tee? Of course, that is only part of the larger issue, which is how to handle the media. Well, you can’t handle the media. The media handles you.
But remember, the media is not a court judge or a district attorney. The media has no inherent privilege, no constitutional right, no legal authority to invade your privacy without your permission. You do not have to answer any question, appear on camera or be interviewed. The media may, however, photograph you without permission in relation to a newsworthy feature, and it will save your images to use in some possible story later.
If you are involved in a self-defense incident, you will be confronted by members of the media. Unless you live in a small town, they will be the lowly grunt reporters — not editors or publishers, not decision-makers or policy managers, and certainly not neighbors.
The media is professionally trained to get your story, make the most of it and move on. Regardless of apparent empathy and what they tell you, street reporters are not your friends. They are solely after a story, a byline, a promotion and their own small niche in America’s endless celebrity circus. They will use you, your words, your clothing, your house and your family to frame a narrative that is in their best interest.
You’ve heard the line, “If it bleeds, it leads.” It is true for a variety of reasons. The media does not care about you except as a means to an end — its own end — which is selling newspapers or increasing its Nielsen ratings.
Nevertheless, do not approach the media as though it were the enemy (although it is). Do not sneer or make a joke of any kind, even if a joke might help you control your nervousness. That will surely make for a hostile interview and write-up, and you will be public toast.
First, let’s look at how the media does not want you to appear. The media does not want to deal with a sane, rational individual. It can hardly be bothered to interview a well-dressed person who either is or seems thoughtful, compassionate and intelligent. It prefers shoving a microphone into the individual’s face in front of either a trashy, crummy looking trailer or a magnificent mansion. In the first instance, it subverts you as an ignorant redneck, and in the second, it presents you as a rich, out-of-touch snob.
In the aftermath of a self-defense incident, even the most unflustered individual may have difficulty speaking logically. I suggest giving a reporter approximately the same answers you would immediately give to the police, something like, “I believed my life [or someone else’s life] was in danger. I’ll be most happy to answer your questions, but I’m a bit shaken right now and need some time to compose myself and speak to my lawyer.” That may work until you can catch your breath, perhaps surround yourself with friends and loved ones, and contact the USCCA Hotline and your lawyer for advice.
Whatever the circumstances, do not lie — ever. If you do not have your facts and feelings under control, do not say something that can easily be either misconstrued or checked and discovered to be false. Do that just one time, and your reputation is ruined. And never try to hide your face; that spells “guilty” from one side of the frame to the other.
It is my contention that following a stressful incident, in front of a battery of microphones, we either clam up or become talking bobbleheads. In the moments after a terrifying ordeal, many people want to talk — to blab about what happened, their feelings and how frightened they were and on and on. Just remember that anything you tell a journalist, cop or neighbor can be used against you in court. So, it all depends on our personality and perhaps on training and practice. Most of us would rather have our fingernails torn out than speak in public. Even if there is just one reporter with a camera or a microphone, the effect will feel the same as standing in front of an audience of jilted lovers or skeptical, cat-calling teenagers.
As for the Harley tee and cut-offs? Sure, and then there’s the white rabbit outfit from Easter and the ghost costume for Halloween. Use your head! Dress up, and if you can’t do that, at least clean up.
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