Media Training

Bit of a break from the normal social media guff to look back to U.K. politics.

I’m no media trainer, but after finding these two videos absolutely terrifying, I do not envy any politician who is interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, of Newsnight fame.

First, from 1997, former Home Secretary Michael Howard dodges the same question 12 times. Howard comes off looking like a bit of an idiot while Paxman’s legend grows.

More recently, William Hague (another former leader of the opposition and current shadow foreign secretary) gets the Paxman treatment, avoiding the question 14 times.


Update: crappy quality video but you get the idea.

Like I said, I’m no media trainer but when faced with a bulldog like Paxman who just won’t give up the bone, what time do you change tack? Or do you do a basic cost benefit analysis and decide that looking like a bit of an idiot is better than saying something that is tantamount to political suicide?

On a side note, it’s interesting to see how much Hague has aged since he was a fresh faced 16 year old, making his first appearance at the Conservative party conference back in 1977.



As Ben Elton would say  "Oooh! Little bit of politics there".


4 Responses to Media Training

  1. amazing clip. thanks for posting it. this would be useful (and scary) for a media training session. one of those situations where no amount of messaging will help. when a person in a position of authority refuses to answer a very simple question, they lose whatever credibility they have. then again, few journalists in north america would have the gumption to be this persistent

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is extremely enlightening. I wonder how prepared Michael Howard was for this interview. He must have gone into it knowing Jeremy Paxman would be tough. He SHOULD have known what the accusations against him were and how he would respond.

    I agree with Louis Armstrong that Paxman does do a tough interview, but Howard made the mistake of ignoring a tenacious reporter like Paxman and just hoping the issue would go away. There was no incentive for Paxman to move on. As soon as Howard evaded the question, he caused the reporter’s BS sensor to ping. Paxman knew he was onto something. Don’t forget, this is Paxman’s show, this is his party … you’ve got to play by his rules.

    My advice to Howard: He should have gone in there with a ready response. He could have said something like, “I was entitled to give him my opinion, I gave it to him and if he perceived my opinion as a threat, then you need to talk to him about it.” When the reporter responds, “this is a yes or no question,” Howard should have quipped, “well then I say the answer is no.” Issue resolved. Move on and salvage the last five minutes of the interview. If Howard couldn’t do that then he just should have owned up to threat and moved on.

  3. From my perspective as a media trainer: this is classic. Mr. Hague, among many other mistakes, is forgetting who his audience really is (hint: it’s not Mr. Paxman). He delves into needless “inside baseball”, debate and detail while ignoring the most obvious concerns being raised. (to be fair to the beleaguered politician, this is harder to do well than it looks).

  4. Jennifer says:

    Good point. Howard should have talked over the interview and spoke instead to his audience.

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