Handling the Media

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BedsnHerts
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Handling the Media

Postby BedsnHerts » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:49 am

I recently watched the John Sweeney documentary Weekend 'Nazis' on youtube. I'd seen his programme on Scientology and though it was outstanding. This, on the other hand, was just shoddy journalism. I spent most of Sunday evening re-watching the show and looking up Swenney's editorial in the Times - along with all 64 viewer comments. The vast majority of veiwers agreed that it was a great big fuss about nothing.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how these programmes get made, what the agendas of Broadcasters are, and what would happen if our hobby found itself under similar media scrutiny. Having a fair bit of knowledge about the TV industry, I thought I'd compile some Top Tips to remember if a TV camera crew turns up at a CiA game.

Most of us feel that there is no case to answer. WE know it's all about the history and the fun of playing airsoft and WE know we're not a bunch of neo-nazis. All true, but remember that journalists and documentary film makers seldom play fair with issues like this. I know because I used to be one. In the case of a TV show it will all start with someone doing a day or two researching, making a few phone calls and putting together a pitch for a Broadcaster - BBC, Channel 4. whoever. If they like the idea, they will give the producer a bunch of money to make the programme THAT THEY WANT TO SEE. And there's the rub - The channel controller wants a show on Weekend Nazis and that's what they are going to get and balanced jounalism be damned. The less real real material they have to make the show, the more they will need to distort what they do have to fit their "story". Again, they won't play fair.

To that end, here are a list of things to do and not to do when a TV journalist who has freshly graduated from The Jeremy Paxman School of Interview Technique turns up unannounced.

Do not run away covering your face - that's what paedophiles do.
Do not answer "no comment" to every question - you're not John Gotti.
Do not push your hand in the lens or ask for the camera to be turned off - that implies that you are trying to hide something.
Do not adopt any intimidating or aggressive stance, even if it is a total invasion of privacy.
Do smile pleasantly, shake everyone'e hand and make sure that the sound guy is getting everything you say (more about this later).
Do exercise your right to find out about the programme before you answer any question. Ask the director the name of the show, the editorial slant, who they have spoken to already and what they have found out so far. This has two purposes; you've just turned the tables on the interviewer and you've also made them disclose what the documentary is really about. This way, when the show is broadcast with a different name and a different angle you have a case to litigate for mis-representation. Plus it's all on tape, so there is no doubt about what was said/promised etc.
Do ask for a Release Form. This is a bit of paperwork that once you've signed it gives permission for the interview to be used in the show. There are exceptions to this - a hostile interviewee is clearly not going to sign anything and there are some rules on using this type of footage without authorisation. It's a legal grey area, but if you have politely asked for a release form then you are not a hostile interviewee so it becomes a lot more difficult to use you in the show without the signed paperwork (plus all of this is on tape, remember?). Once the PA hands you the form you should put it in your pocket and ask who to send it to once your Solicitor has checked it over.
Do ask if you can reschedule the interview for later on. This gives you a chance to compose your thoughts before opening your mouth. Another aspect is that here is rarely a budget for overtime on shoots like these and if the earliest time convenient for you is 9 at night, chances are they will be halfway back to the office by then.
Do try to come across as helpful and sympathetic to their needs. You can even offer to come round to their office some time next week (not in your Waffen SS gear, obviously).

If you find yourself railroaded into talking on camera against your will there are some things you can do to make your contribution as unusable as possible. None of these are foolproof and remember that all they need is a single soundbite, so if poosible try to make sure it doesn't get this far.

Do take your cue from politicians. Avoid a loaded question by answering a different one.
Example:
Q: Why do you portray a regime that was guilty of murdering 6 million Jews?
A: I think the real question you are asking is why do we portray German soldiers instead of Allied....etc. etc.

Now for some cheeky ones...

Do filibuster (if you can do it). A camera crew is on a schedule. They will have allocated about half an hour to film you and an interviewee that rambles on and on without pause going from one very boring topic to another very boring topic without ever pausing for breath will soon have the director's eyes glazing over and the PA nervously looking at her watch.

Do look straight down the camera lens. This is a real no-no in production as it makes you look like a stage hypnotist. The cameraman or director will ask you not to do it. You shoul apologise, wait for them to re-start and then do it again. Try splitting your looks between the interviewer and the lens about 50/50. They will ask you not to do it. Apologise for your nervousness and then do it again. The camerman will reposition to make it harder for you. No matter. Do it again.

Forewarned is forearmed. :D
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby HeadShot » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:59 am

Cheers, good info to bear in mind. No point in ignoring these sort of people or refusing to answer.

Another tip that someone else I know has used is to look constantly, yet innocently, busy whilst you are being interviewed. Get someone to call you on your mobile whilst it's happening. As people walk past, they should ask you organisational question "Where's the tea urn gone?", "Have you sorted the radios out?" etc to stifle the interview a little.

Might not work for docos but it's good if a dodgy news crew rock up suddenly.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Gadge » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:21 am

All sound advice Martin.

I actually got trained to deal with aggressive journalism when I worked in GW events and marketing, you know the sort of shite that turns 'playing with toy soldiers and roleplay games into 'communing with the devil and portraying evil murderers'.

We had a four day course ran by former members of the BBC, very informative and advised much of what you've said above.

The trick is also to look at how anything you say could be edited or snipped to soud bad out of context and avoid giving them the chance, put a positive spin on it.

You're not 'gloryfing war and stomping around in ss uniforms' you're remembering the great sacrifice made by our forefathers in a current generation that has largely forgot, you're taking on the unpleasant task of showing the public how dark those days were and exactly what the brave citizens of Britain had to deal with. ... etc...etc...

I remember when that programme weekend Nazis first came on.. i turned to my girlfriend of the time Charlene and said 'I portray SS, do you think I'm a nazi' to which she replied 'Honey I'm *black* you'd be a shit nazi if you were...' :)
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Chomley-Warner » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:24 am

A bit more simply - should you be approached by any media representative at a CiA game then you must politely refer them to the organisers. It's completely pointless getting drawn into anything like this. We will deal with it!
CiA events are not held on public land so no one has authorisation to be there other than invitees, so it's unlikely to happen. We are often approached by people we don't know asking if they can film/photograph CiA games - all are refused.

Public events are a different kettle of fish and you would be well advised to follow Martin's advice.

Incidentally, the Sweeney program has been through the complaints process and I'll try and find the link to the report if anyone is interested.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby BedsnHerts » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:41 am

HeadShot wrote:Another tip that someone else I know has used is to look constantly, yet innocently, busy whilst you are being interviewed. Get someone to call you on your mobile whilst it's happening. As people walk past, they should ask you organisational question "Where's the tea urn gone?", "Have you sorted the radios out?" etc to stifle the interview a little.


A couple of the contributors tried that in the show - the man who put SS runes on coins :roll: and Mr. Belsen Trolley :shock: I felt that both of them came across as dicks (then again, what they were selling probably sealed their reputation as dicks anyway so maybe it made no difference).

I'd be interested in finding out if there was any succesful legal action after the broadcast. I watched it another time with a purely litigious eye and ironically there was only one part that I thought would make the BBC lawyers sweat and it wasn't Captain No Komment :D

CW is absolutely right about referring everything to the organisers in CiA games, but there's even a right way and a wrong way to do that if there's a camera rolling. The golden rule is that it must never look as if you're trying to hide anything.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Gadge » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:47 am

The key thing with that programme was editing.

Take the 'nazi wedding' you dont see the other side of the aisle where all the guests are in allied uniform....

Equally a friend of mine told me the producers put there own score to that one. The couple involved were *very* upset their day was tarnished with Sweeneys trash.

I'm sure Dink can fill you in if you need the details.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Chomley-Warner » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:57 am

Here you go - Ofcom report answering specific complaints (pages 19 & 35)
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/ ... sue121.pdf
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby dieselmonkey » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:10 pm

Chomley-Warner wrote:A bit more simply - should you be approached by any media representative at a CiA game then you must politely refer them to the organisers. It's completely pointless getting drawn into anything like this. We will deal with it!


The only problem with that is that on game booking form threads, our 'real' names are used, something that i try and avoid doing *anywhere* else on the internet these days. If someone *was* digging for a tabloid documentary, it'd be rather easy to find me, where i work, and where i live from that, as i have an unusual surname, and they could turn up on my doorstep or at my office for an unannounced 'interview'.

While i have nothing whatsoever to hide, as i have no personal problem with portraying historical axis units, I'm in no way political these days (though was a fairly prominant anti-nazi protester in my youth), and anyway, i mainly portray allied units these days, it wouldn't be something i'd want to happen, and would be rather uncomfortable about, due to 'paediatrican effect' inherent in certain sectors of society.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby HeadShot » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:17 pm

Hmm, my thoughts on names is that anyone can pretty much find out anything about you anyway. Your name is the easiest thing to find out.

Also, we post our photos as our avatars anyway!

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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Gadge » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:17 pm

Exactly

Very few folk know my real name and I'd much rather it was kept that way, unfortunately it does come up next to an alias on booking threads.

Being in 'sensitive' line of work means that I tried to keep my social life and my work life very very separate whenever possible.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Chomley-Warner » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:22 pm

I was merely pointing out the correct procedure at CiA games DM.

I really can't see any need for this sudden paranoia! It's really unlikely you will be the subject of a media storm!
I know Gadge's complete life history from all his postings on forums far and wide - it doesn't take a super sleuth to track him down!

Come on, get real chaps!
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Gadge » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:29 pm

Regardless I'd kindly request my full name taken off the forum please.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Gadge » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:30 pm

For what its worth having spent last night on the phone to Sgt Heide, im just a little bit more wary of it now.

The point being do a google image search for my real name you ownt find a pic for a bit.

Do it for 'gadge' and you get a pic of me on page one.

I'd rather keep the two distant.
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Chomley-Warner » Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:38 pm

If anyone is the slightest bit concerned about public opinion of them dressing up in German uniform then they shouldn't do it - full stop.
Let alone publishing hundreds of photographs of themselves on web sites and magazines and listing their own name on their own group's web site.

Once something is published it is there for ever - you can't undo it, a cautionary warning to those about to buy a German uniform but don't want anyone to know about it!
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Re: Handling the Media

Postby Gadge » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:01 pm

Fair enough if its really too much trouble to click edit and remove my name which is completely unnecessary to have on there really then so be it.

Disappointing that you cant respect someones wishes but fair enough if that's how it is.
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