Let’s imagine a new mega-mall is due to open next month in the West Midlands, just a time when local retailers have been struggling. If the reporter is told by his or her editor something like ‘I want 750 words on how Birmingham retailers are going to face up to the competition from the new mega-mall’, the story could be very open-minded, looking for the contrast between shops who fear they may have to close, and those who will be fighting back with new strategies and clever promotions If, however, the editor has made up his or her mind already, the reporter may be asked to write on ‘why small retailers will be doomed by the new mall’ – in which case it will be a much more one-sided story, with the reporter only seeking out the doom and gloom. So what can you do if you suspect a journalist is already prejudiced against your point of view? The key is to be realistic, not naïve. Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes to anticipate the tricky questions. Then think what key message you want to get across, even if they want to take a cynical view. Don’t be afraid to repeat this several times, so they can see you won’t fit into their pre-defined narrative if you don’t accept it. Remember, if you give ten positive quotes and one negative one, they can still just pull out the negative one and ignore the rest – so ensure you don’t give them the opportunity to do this if you don’t think it’s appropriate.
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