Have you ever been tricked into saying something stupid by a journalist?

You always hear about journalists twisting around things in articles which is why many people only say, “No comment.”

Plus, in the book Prep, one of the main character sort of gets lulled into a false sense of security, into saying stuff about how she doesn’t like her boarding school–and this is twisted into a whole slant on how the school kind of marginalizes kids who are poorer or on scholarship.

Has this ever happened to anyone on this boards? Do you feel comfortable sharing?

In my job,I have to train people in the military how to deal with the media. In the training we discuss the fact that most journalists are just trying to get the “story” and we can help by Getting the info out. In the training scenarios, however, we show the the entire range, from the simple “just getting the info” reporter to the “blood in the water” shark. It’s fun (in a sick way) and I have never NOT gotten each of them to trip up. Some are tougher to crack,but they all go.

Sick. How do you get the really hard nuts to crack? :smiley:

My sister was, well, not “tricked into saying something stupid”, but certainly horribly misquoted when she was a teen.

A newspaper visited her school doing a report about the inexplicable popularity (late 80s, UK) of the ridiculous Australian soap Neighbours. In her comments about why she thought the whole business was daft, she said something like “It’s stupid. It’s like this weird fantasy world where there’s no racial tension because there are no black people, there are no disabled people, no ugly people, everyone is perfect.”

She was indeed quoted in the paper. But according to them she said “It’s like a fantasy! There are no disabled people!”

Is this off the record?

You have to listen REALLY hard for the little mistep, then gently (or not so gently) push then out of their lane. It’s surprisingly easy. I have caught my cameraman shaking behind the camera, because he is laughing so hard as he can see where I am going.

People in their nature, hate saying “I don’t know, I am going to have to get back to you.” so they try to answer, which is a mistake if you are not the SME (subject matter expert).
Also, if you make a mistake, say you did. “sorry, I mispoke.” They may still use the mistake, but probrably not.

I got burned when I was in High School

A local reporter was interviewing kids about budget cuts to the music program. While he had all his gear out, I spoke with him about how it was a shame, etc, etc.

After he had put all his gear away I was chatting with him as he walked back to his van. I offhandedly mentioned how private lessons were pretty much necessary for anyone serious about their instrument (the band teacher can’t teach 300 kids how to play well with just three hours / week). He asked me if I could tell who took private lessons, I replied “absolutely”. He asked me how I could tell. I responded (with typical naiveté and idiocy of a HS student) “Well, the ones who don’t take private lessons suck.”

Guess what I got quoted on. Yep, right there in the paper, good ol’ GameHat declaring that people who don’t take private lessons on their instrument “suck”.

I got yelled at by like five teachers and all my friends. I still feel like a piece of shit when I remember it.

Lesson learned.

Yeah, the girl in Prep gets asked stuff like that–it’s more subtle. She’s asked stuff about how you can tell people are on scholarship, and she talks about how she feels like a nobody because she’s lower middle class from the mid west, and some anecdotes about teachers favoring certain students…and yeah, ostracism city.

It’s never been deliberate, but almost every time I have given an interview I was misquoted in the published version. Some of the errors made me look really foolish. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for public figures who claim they were misquoted (unless there is a recording), because in my experience journalists can be extremely careless.

I work for a Federal agency that has a commission that makes decisions. I was explaining this on the record and said that the Commission takes a host of factors into consideration: environmental concerns, public interest, needs of the nation, and regulatory concerns such as markets, rates, and tariffs.

I was quoted as saying that two main factors the commission considers are race and terrorists. In print. Gah.

Not me, not even someone I know, but an anecdote.

Last summer my roommate did an internship with a fairly well-known policy institute in Brussels. Another intern attended some event at the Uzbek embassy to the EU and ended up chatting with some Uzbek journalists. He was quoted widely as being a representative of this institute in the Uzbek media.


GameHat - don’t feel to badly, that’s worked on a few people. We always warn people that the interview isn’t over until you see the dust of the reporter as they leave. We had on guy that was doing a TV interview and they had “disabled” the tally light (the little red light) on the camera.

The reporter “ended” the interview and put the camera on the floor - ehich looked like it was off. The poor guy thought it was done, but when on chatting - guess what happened?

Two biggest lessons - it’s NEVER off the record and the interview isn’t over until the reporter is gone.

Not me, but a professor I know. He wasn’t tricked, really, but he learned a valuable lesson ABOUT THE wAYS OF jOURNALISTS.

He was being interviewed by the local city newspaper, and at one point casually remarked that he and the rest of the department faculty were “just twelve guys out to save the universe.”

To his chagrin, the next day he saw that as the headline on the article, which was on the first page of the section.

Just Twelve Guys Out to Save the Universe

Imagine that. Then imagine trying to explain it to the Head of the Department.

I gave an interview under the condition one piece of information be kept out of the article. This piece of information being left out did nothing to change the article and putting it in did no damn good.

Guess what was IN the article?

Never fucking again.

Though I’ve never had the chance to interview myself. :stuck_out_tongue:

To be honest, I have made rather silly mistakes on myself during interviews. Ok, well, once. But I learned my lesson.

The problem I have, being involved in a few areas of media sensitivity, is that after something comes to a head and gets blown up all out of proportion in the media life goes on. Some of the most egregious things I’ve seen, where the whistle was blown, the media spun it to meet THEIR agenda, the whistleblower got ostracized, nothing changed, and two weeks later, the media was off looking at the next shiny new thing.

I hope this doesn’t come across as threadshitting, but this is inaccurate. This is one reason people say “no comment,” but it sure as hell isn’t the only one or even the most common one in my experience. (I’ll grant that my sample may not represent the public at large because these days the people I talk to are used to dealing with the press.) I find it ranks behind “My superiors won’t let me talk about that,” “I’ve agreed for legal reasons not to talk about that,” and “I’ll look bad if I answer that.”

Beyond that I guess I can’t comment because I’m one of those awful people who sneakily manipulates people by asking them questions. :wink:

Visiting family in Scotland, we went on a tour through a Scotch distillery. Our tour guide was lovely - informative, helpful, friendly and… Mexican. We were fascinated mostly, wondering what turn of events had seen this young girl from Mexico end up working as the tour guide in a Scottish distillery, but we didn’t get a chance to interrogate her on her life story. It was still on our minds that evening when the father-in-law hosted a party at his home, and in the course of chatting to people who wanted to know what we’d seen while we were there, we talked about it with FIL’s friend who worked for a local newspaper.

Two days later we were horrified to see a story in the local paper about a party of people visiting from overseas who were upset and disgusted to see a Mexican running tours in the Scotch distillery, with lots of fabricated quotes that basically said foreigners had no business in the Scottish tourism industry and that a local would have been a preferable tour guide. Obviously someone had contacted the distillery for a comment, as the article added that the girl in question had been working there for a year after marrying a local boy and moving to Scotland to be with him. (Ahah! So that’s how she came to be living and working there!).

How do you know they were fabricated quotes, though? Couldn’t those have been real?

I live in a small town next to Marley23, but generally it stands at “Well we can’t mention that” level here. There are only about a half-dozen of us (from three local papers) that have regular access to government officials and so they know us very well.

There also is no real level of sensationalism in a smaller area. Though we’ve garnered national interest in the last few years, it’s been pretty quick and clean.

Nobody goes trying to dig into people’s lives or catch them in misstatements. Newspaper journalists pretty much get a bad rap because of TV media and a questionable history (early 20th century) in my experience.