Nasty, Negative News Media

It’s always fun to bash the news media for its obsession with the negative and the nasty. Indeed, I do it myself from time to time. But many CEOs and newsmakers are their own worst enemies when it comes to their public perceptions. Frequently, reporters don’t have to make up vicious or horrible things to say about newsmakers, all the reporters have to do is hit their “record” buttons.

For example, below is series of quotes all made by Woody Allen about himself to the BBC as reported on December 19, 2005.

Woody Allen said the following:

"People think I'm an intellectual because I wear glasses and they think I'm an artist because my films lose money".

He thinks he has "glaring faults and miserable work".

"I'm one of the smallest money making Academy Award winners in history.”

"My relationship with the American audience is exactly the same as it has always been: they never came to see my films, and they don't come now.”

"I've often said that the only thing standing between me and greatness is me."

I am a "mediocre” filmmaker.

"I'm a terrible clarinet player. But I play with my heart. I don't have a great ear for music."

It sounds like Woody was having a bad day. But for crying out loud Woody, do you have to trash yourself so thoroughly in public? Sure Allen might have said some good things about his career that didn’t make it into the story. But does anyone seriously think that the BBC just made up these quotes or that they forced Allen to attack himself at gunpoint?

Of course not, Allen got himself in trouble precisely the way most business executives get themselves in trouble with the press. It’s not because the news media are nasty, it’s because we often criticize ourselves and somehow expect the press to overlook this.


In my experience, most interview subjects spend way to much time worrying about the news media “going negative.” This is a waste of time. What interviewees should worry about most is themselves going negative.

The number one way most people look foolish in the news media is when they say dumb or critical things about themselves. The number one way to look good in the media is to say exclusively good things about yourself and let other people trash you instead.

So if you want a positive media experience, start by trying to gain control over the one part of the entire interview process you can control: your own mouth.

T.J. Walker is the proprietor of and a staff writer for Jim Wilson's excellent Virtual Promote Gazette, one of the better e-mail newsletters for web publicists--and where this article first appeared.

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