Duncan Stewart’s interview on NewsTalk’s Breakfast Show this morning was one of those media performances where you’re left cringing (the full interview can be listened to on this link.) Stewart was on the show to discuss climate change and how media cover the topic in terms of the issues around false balance, something which I am in full agreement with Stewart about. Obviously very passionate about the topic, Stewart felt that the host, Shane Coleman, wasn’t giving him the platform to make his point and then threatened to walk out of the interview, eventually come out with a line that will be rolled out in media training seminars for years – ‘Give me 10 minutes or I’m not staying.’

What’s disappointing about Stewart’s initial outburst is that it lasts about ninety seconds (there is another heated debate towards the end of the interview between Stewart and Coleman’s co-host later), but it is the main focus of subsequent media coverage, deflecting focus from the discussion on climate change – the very issue Stewart was on to discuss!

From a media training perspective, Stewart broke one of the cardinal rules by becoming aggressive with the presenters. While the likes of Jeremy Paxman or Vincent Browne tearing strips off their guests may make for great entertainment, the reverse is rarely the case with listeners forming a poor impression of the interviewee.

The apparent confusion about the interview length is also something worth noting in terms of what your PR representative should establish before an interview. Interviewees should be clear on details like approximately how long the segment will take, who is interviewing them and whether there is anyone else being interviewed as part of the same segment.

Duncan Stewart does a great job to promote environmental issues, but this interview just goes to show that sometimes our passion can get the better of us. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

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Piaras Kelly
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