No joke: media training lessons from the Stephen Fry affair

Erudite wit and well-known Twitter fan Stephen Fry has been out of sorts over the past week, put out at the widespread derision over his reported remarks to the effect that ‘women don’t enjoy sex’. Mr Fry, who as a gay male makes no claim to have any intimate knowledge of the subject, first denied the accuracy of the story but was then caught out by the fact that remarks, in an interview with Attitude magazine, had been recorded. Some observers, like fellow-comedian Frank Skinner, writing in The Times over the weekend, pointed out that the remarks were probably made in jest, and are being taken too seriously. However, witticisms which appear amusing at the time often take on a very different hue when seen in print, out of their original context.

So lesson one from this is – don’t make a joke to a journalist if you don’t want to see it in print – he or she may take your remarks much more literally than you mean them to. Lesson two: while most interviews with print journalists are not recorded, profile pieces or longer-form interviews usually are. So don’t make things worse by trying to deny something, especially if the reporter may have the evidence to the contrary.