• Brian Shrowder

How to avoid being misquoted in the media

There's a simple rule to make sure your media message is reported accurately


Spokespeople often complain that a quote from their media interview was used out of context.


Many times, they are probably right.


Context or nuance often gets lost in the news writing process. Time-pressed journalists trying to distil a spokesperson’s point of view are looking for a short ‘grab’, often no more than five seconds or about fifteen words. This is especially true in radio and television news. In the search for brevity, accuracy can fall by the wayside.


The key is to speak in the way that journalism is written. Condensing your message to five seconds is a tough but necessary discipline – any longer, and your quote may be sliced in half with only one portion used and the other paraphrased by the journalist.


Short and simple

Your message should be simple and declarative, and as free as possible of any qualifying statements. News works in black and white, not shades of grey, and qualifying phrases (such as anything beginning with "However...") are in danger of being cut.


Editing – the art of honing and refining language – involves ruthlessly chopping out words. Winston Churchill – who knew a good sound bite when he heard one – once observed, “Broadly speaking, the short words are best, and the old words best of all.”


Edit your message first, or risk being edited out of context – or even out of the conversation altogether.


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