Mar 14, 2014

Are You Asking Me a Question?

I heard a radio interview the other day with one of my favorite book authors, John Feinstein.  Feinstein was being interviewed about his latest book, Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In The Minor Leagues of Baseball.  As the interview started, the radio show host made a statement and then paused.  There was a moment of awkward silence before Feinstein asked, “Are you asking me a question?”

Feinstein and the radio show host have been friends for a long time and in fact have done similar interviews for each of the 22 previous books he’s authored.  Feinstein’s question back to the host was more about giving his long-time friend a hard time than it was about being a jerk, but it provided a valuable example of how to handle this type of situation.

The exchange brings up an interesting dilemma and one that I see regularly in public relations (PR).  What do you do when a reporter says something that isn’t a question but looks at you and is clearly waiting for an answer?

In my part time job/hobby with the Utah Jazz I see a lot of this.  After the game during locker room interviews with players, it’s common to hear reporters say things like, that was some game or you guys really hung in there.  Neither example is a question but players respond to them as if they are.

In one of my favorite Rick Reilly columns in Sports Illustrated, Reilly raged over this very concept.  In his column, Reilly writes about things that bother him about Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls … “For that matter, I’m sick of NBC’s Ahmad Rashad, too. I’ve waited seven years for him to ask Jordan a question, and I’m pretty sure it’s not coming. You guys sure hung in there, Michael, is not a question. That was some game, Michael, is not a question. When is your contract up, Ahmad? is a question. Are you expecting a real question from a man who sleeps at Jordan’s house, drives with him to games and appears in Jordan’s ads? I just hope and pray that when Jordan finally stops, he doesn’t do it too suddenly. Rashad’s nose could break off.”

When these types of non questions come up with my clients, here are four tips I share and advise them to follow when being interviewed.

I say this all the time, but it’s important to remember that you’re always on the record.  Anything you say can be reported or published.  If you don’t’ want something to be known, then don’t say it. If you want to share information there are great ways to do so, but if you’re being interviewed always make sure you know what the question is.

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About the author

Jeremy Kartchner
Jeremy Kartchner

Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.

Author: Jeremy Kartchner | Google+


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