Nothing bothers me more than hearing someone say “The media misquoted me” or “The media took what I said out of context.” If you talk to the media – I have a simple solution for you to never, ever be misquoted again: invest in a digital recorder.
When you talk to the media, make sure you have your digital recorder with you. If the media has a problem with you recording the interview, then don’t do the interview. Explain to them why you want to record the interview (for your own security and learning purposes of course…) and then do the interview. If, in the event you are misquoted or your comments are taken out of context, you can then gently refer to you trusty recorder and let the reporter know that they did actually take things out of context or just completely misquoted you. A simple retraction to fix the problem and everyone (well, maybe not the reporter) will be happy.
The other side to this: when you’re talking to a reporter – think about what you’re going to say before you say it. One of my favorite tools to get myself focused is to begin answering a question with the question. I learned that while watching my son do his 4-H presentation long ago. Those were the rules. It helps you focus where your answer will be coming from and where it will be going. Rather than you mentally rummaging through the file cabinet in your brain, you will be ready to answer the question in a focused fashion.
Oh, and reporters – want to never be accused of misquoting someone again? Invest in a digital recorder. Nothing in this day and age says you have to be some sort of hero scribbling every word in short hand in those thin reporter notebooks. Then, when you’re accused of misquoting or taking someone’s comments out of context, you too can refer to your trusty recorder. Besides – if you’re a print reporter, chances are pretty good your editor (or at least your web content producer) will want the mp3 of the interview for additional content for your story when it appears on the website. If you’re a blogger, the same holds true.
You don’t need to get a fancy recorder, something with a headphone jack and a USB port will do. With the basic bells and whistles, a decent mp3 recorder will run you about $30-$50 and can be had almost anywhere. (I even saw a model at my local chain pharmacy store the other day!) Minor investment to avoid major headaches.