Things Not to Say to a Reporter: Comment
I thought this deserved its own post, since I'm the only one who goes back and actually reads the comments. Mike McCarron is one of the area's long time and well known PIOs. He represents San Francisco International Airport. And he gets it. Not only does he do his job well, he also trains other people and does workshops for the media too. Smart. Train us if you want us to do better. That's what I was trying to do with my previous post.
He left the following comment in response to my follow up.
Thanks Mike, it's nice to hear what the other half has to say. For the record, I have NEVER asked how planes fly. Only helicopters.
Mike McCarron, SFO spokesman:
All excellent and salient points. From my view on the other side of the microphone I am constantly amazed at what bad instincts (policies?) some PIOs bring to their job. It is always my goal to get the information out as quickly and accurately as I can (basically, so you reporters can leave me alone!). My philosophy has had me at odds with some of our tenants who prefer to exercise the Conastoga method of public relations (circle the wagons) or the Subterranian Avian methodolgy (bury your head in the sand), neither of which serve anyone's purposes.
I have no problem publicly stating "I don't have that information right now" or "Due to security constraints I can't comment on that issue" or "Yes, we made a mistake" but I always add on "and here's what we're going to do to fix it." Everyone who has ever held a job in their life knows that things at work don't always go accordning the Hoyle so they're not shocked when something doesn't go right someplace else. What they don't appreciate (IMHO) is some shiny-suited mouth-piece trying sugar coat things and talk down to them.
The vast majority of the reporters I deal with are real pros. I can count on one hand the ones that I really believe had an agenda and didn't want to give me a fair shake. My biggest irritant about the media, and this is probably a systemic issue due to rapidly changing world of the media and the constant drive to cut costs, is the amazing lack of depth of experience for some working in a market as large as San Francisco. I have no problem answering questions but I expect the reporter to have done his or her homework and not waste my time with stupid questions. ("How do planes fly?" "How do they find the Airport in bad weather?") There are a lot a resources out there (several of which I have written just to help the media!) that can be mined with just a few keystrokes. I also have a standing offer to any reporter to take a couple of hours with me to show you the Airport inside and out so you have a better understanding of the operation and how the Airlines, the FAA, the TSA, Customs, and the Airport are all different entities with different functions and roles.
That's a little more than my two-cents, but I was in good Friday frame of mind.
Keep up the good work and writing the blog.