I spent the better part of 20 years being the primary spokesman for a large company, BFGoodrich. During that time, I had the opportunity to work with some exceptional journalists who were knowledgeable, ethical and fair. And I had the misfortune to work with some who couldn’t find their asses with both hands in the dark.
Every time I received a call from someone in that latter group I had to strap on the blood pressure cuff and bite my tongue. Nothing to be gained by stating the obvious: You’re an asshat. But it did cross my mind.
So I read with interest the retort of Washington Nationals outfield Bryce Harper to a question posed by a scribbler in Toronto. Here’s the backstory, from Yahoo sports:
Bryce Harper‘s comebacks look ready for the big leagues, too.
The 19-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder quipped ”That’s a clown question, bro” to a Toronto TV reporter who asked if he planned to take advantage of Canada’s lower drinking age after belting a long home run in a win over the Blue Jays.
For a brief time, the highest trending topic on Twitter was Harper’s response: ”That’s a clown question, bro.” The outfielder’s name was also among the site’s most popular subjects.
Sweet. Wonder if Harper has ever taken any formal training courses in news media relations? Probably no need.
Anyway, what got me thinking about this was a story that made its way out of the Rose Garden last week when Prez O was essentially heckled by a reporter as he was announcing a change in immigration policy. Here’s from the NYT:
As Mr. Obama was making a statement from the Rose Garden about a new immigration policy on Friday afternoon, a reporter from The Daily Caller, a conservative news Web site, repeatedly raised his voice and tried to interrupt. The reporter, Neil Munro, tried to ask whether the policy — intended to help young illegal immigrants get work — was good for legal American workers.
“Excuse me, sir,” Mr. Obama said when Mr. Munro initially spoke up. He put his hand in the air and raised a finger, as if to say “wait.”
“It’s not time for questions, sir,” Mr. Obama continued. “Not while I’m speaking.”
A few minutes later, Mr. Obama referenced the incident by saying, “And the answer to your question, sir, and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question, is this is the right thing to do for the American people.”
Mr. Munro then apparently interrupted again.
“I didn’t ask for an argument, I’m answering your question,” Mr. Obama said.
OK. One of the failings of journalism these days is that the mainstream media — especially those reporters based inside the power alleys of DC and New York — are more lapdogs for those in power than watchdogs for the public. So by all means, ask some tough questions.
But hey. Let’s have a little civility. The President reading a statement in the Rose Garden is not the same as when the British Prime Minister stands in the well at the House of Commons. Sheesh.
But the Prez could have shut Munro up and won the 24/7 news cycle just by replying:
“That’s a clown question, bro.”