The second topic of interest actually involved two separate sessions, “The Bar, the Media and the Public” and “First Amendment and Media Issues for Judges”.
At some point in our career whether Judge or Attorney, we will be involved with the media, especially the print media. One of the presenters, Gary A. Hengstler observed that dealing with the press is unfamiliar territory for most attorneys but with the advent of law-related television, more and more people are fascinated with the details of human drama in court cases. It is, therefore, in our best interest to know how to respond to the media. Mr. Hengstler outlined ten tips on dealing with the media. There is insufficient space for extensive details of each tip so I’ll do my best to present them in summary form:
1. Never lie or mislead a reporter. Even if you succeed temporarily, the reporter, if the published story later proves to be flawed, will remember.
2. Appreciate and respect the reporter’s deadlines. For journalists, there are no continuances. A reporter will appreciate a judge or lawyer who makes himself or herself available at the earliest possible time.
3. If you want to be quoted, make colorful statements.Besides getting it accurately, the reporter wants his story to be interesting. Use of analogies or appropriate quips help add color to a story. If you don’t want to be quoted, but still want to appear cooperative, keep your commentary to the dryest, blandest and straightforward language you can.
4. Avoid legal terms in explaining complex issues. Draw a picture in laymen’s terms to get your point across.
5. Set your own terms for the interview. Tell the reporter up front what can and can’t be used for direct attribution. If you are asked to go “off the record,” or “on background,” make sure you and the reporter explicitly agree on what those terms mean and how the information will be used.