Journalists’ requests

Every so often I get requests from journalists for opinions by e-mail, interviews by telephone, or appearances on camera. A fair number of these are about topics that I have no special expertise in, so I just demur. (I don’t much like the way I sound and — especially — look in recordings, so I’m especially resistant to requests to be recorded. Back in January I agreed to be filmed for a Stanford It Gets Better video, but that’s a special case; the video hasn’t yet appeared, and I hope I didn’t doom the project.)

Most of the requests come with very tight time constraints, and that makes me even more resistant.

Recently a request came in from a Bay Area print publication for an opinion on a topic I had nothing special to say about, a topic that any informed person could provide a personal opinion on. Maybe they just wanted someone with Professor before their name. As I was gearing up to say that by e-mail, my Stanford mailbox (and many other people’s) vanished for four days, and by the time the ITS people restored it, the publication’s deadline had passed.

But then this morning, a much tougher request, from a television outlet, asking about a topic I have actually posted about, though only once. Politics and the media are involved, so it’s a tricky request for someone who’s neither a political pundit nor a media scholar. But I had expressed an opinion in public, so I couldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Still, it looked like a project that would take careful thought — and, as it turns out, hardware I don’t own. Plus, they wanted an immediate response. The letter of request, suitably edited:

I came across your blog post and your knowledge of the story would strengthen the analysis of our report and I am writing to see if you would be interested in recording a comment for us. If so, you could consider the questions below to help you frame your response:

1) How much do you think the media overplayed the significance of … ?
2) What did you think of the media coverage of this story?. Did you think it got the coverage it deserved?

Alternatively, please feel free to formulate your own statement, our only request is that you stay to the media angle of the story.

All you would need to do is record your response using your webcam or camcorder (please frame your head and shoulders in the shot and talk directly to the camera) and save it to a .mov or .wmv file. The comment should be 45 seconds maximum.

Then upload the file to … making the recipient address … or send it directly via email to my address.

We are working to a tight deadline so we would need the comment in by tomorrow. I appreciate it’s short notice, but I’d be much obliged if you can let me know if you’d like to take part.

(They always apologize for the short notice.)

Well, I don’t have a webcam or a camcorder (I don’t even have a cellphone, which makes me an extremely weird person), and I’m not moved to take the time to postpone other projects to write and edit my opinions and then to borrow someone’s equipment to film the thing.

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