5 Feb 2008

Dodging bullets

When asked by a seven-year-old child why I was using some bad words (i.e., swearing like a sailor) after stubbing my toe on a solid metal toy tractor, I proceeded to point out that that the real question was why the tractor was lying in the hallway in the first place.

Not exactly my finest moment (or as deft as some of the political sidestepping witnessed in the US presidential candidate debates) but at least it saved me from delving into the linguistic hypocrisy of adults and answering a pertinent, if awkward question.

When it comes to steering phrases (i.e., sidestepping), media training is invaluable for learning to respond to but not answer journalists’ questions and to keep “on message.”

Top steering phrases include:
“The real question here is …..”
“What you really want to be asking is …”
“The most important thing to consider is…”
“I know that the audience at home is most concerned about…”


Colm said...

...or as Martin McGuinness, the chief negotiator for the Irish political party Sinn Fein said on an almost daily basis throughout the late 1990's (and many years after) when responding to virtually any question - "lets put this into perspective..." from which point he often followed it "we want to put all the guns out of Irish politics".
The questions to McGuinness were almost always about the IRA's decommissioning of weapons and McGuinness and his party colleagues were absolute experts when it came to answering with their message rather than the answer the journalist wanted. As a journalist in Ireland at the time, it was both frustrating and impressive!

Anonymous said...

Hollywood did this well with the movie Wag the Dog.