Interviews For Sale  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Features
From AJR,   September 1994

Interviews For Sale   

By Jacqueline E. Sharkey
Jacqueline E. Sharkey is head of the University of Arizona Department of Journalism and author of "Under Fire--U.S. Military Restrictions on the Media from Grenada to the Persian Gulf."     

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Media coverage can and does affect the outcome of high-profile cases, says Robert L. Shapiro, O.J. Simpson's defense attorney and the author of "Using the Media to Your Advantage." Shapiro writes that "the importance and power of the media cannot be overemphasized," and that an attorney's ability to influence the press may be as important as the ability to influence judges and juries in cases involving celebrities or other public figures.

The article, which appeared last year in Champion, a magazine for criminal defense lawyers, outlined specific steps they can take to help their clients' prospects in the court of public opinion:

GBe responsive, courteous and truthful. It is never a good idea to lie to the press. To simply make up facts in the hope that they will later prove correct is too big a risk.

G±ome up with a few phrases you believe in and repeat them continuously. The media will repeat them, and in time, the repetition becomes almost fact. That is your ultimate goal.

GControl the spin on television stories by limiting statements to a few sound bites. The less choice you give the news director or reporter, the greater chance you have of airing the precise words you want aired.

GRemember John Wayne's advice to young actors: "Speak low and speak slow."

GNever look down at the microphone. Your eyes will close and you will have a dazed expression. Instead, remember to look over the cameras, which will keep your chin up.

GTo ensure that clients appear in the most favorable light, make sure they dress in civilian clothes, walk in a slow and deliberate manner and project an air of confidence.

GCultivate relationships with reporters. You can educate them about the legal system, and if they trust you, they can provide information "to which a lawyer would never have access."

GWhen you like reporters' stories, call them up and compliment them on their objectivity.

– J.S.

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