Pro Football Hall of Fame player Andre Reed uttered this upon being quoted recently in a front page story in the Allentown Morning Call issuing disparaging remarks about Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel and singer Jon Bon Jovi: “I said it, but I thought we were basically off the record.”
Curiously, Reed’s comments were prompted by Social Media when Manziel tweeted soon-to-be Cleveland Cavalier James LeBron was “his guy.” That’s what prompted his tirade. Before you respond to social media, take a deep breath. You may simply be throwing gasoline on the fire, as Reed did. Reed claimed he and the reporter “were just talking.” It isn’t just the original tweet that can become a story. The reaction can often be far more damaging, as it was in this case.
For the record, Reed said this: “Who the [expletive] is Johnny Manziel? LeBron ain’t your guy! You’re not ‘Johnny Football.’ You’re Johnny Rookie.” Reed went on to elaborate on reports of Bon Jovi buying his former team, the Buffalo Bills with this: “Man, [expletive] Bon Jovi. You might as well just take this city [Buffalo], throw it in the river and let it go down Niagara Falls.” He further stated Manziel would be lustily booed in Buffalo as the fans there “would put him in his place.”
And then he blamed the reporter for the entire situation.
The reporter didn’t make Reed talk under duress. Point is, you can’t say something in front of a reporter and then pull it back by claiming it was off the record. The reporter didn’t tell Reed to pontificate; he did it all on his own. Reed’s assumptions that the reporter wouldn’t use his comments is also curious, since it is a reporter’s job to get comments, put them into perspective and make a story. Point is, it wasn’t the reporter’s fault—he was just doing his job.
We prepare clients for media encounters with the following advice: Nothing is Off the Record. That is sage advice in today’s media environment where culpability comes before accountability. Be careful, and deliberative about media encounters.
As a former reporter, the only time anything was off the record was if I had a relationship with the person being interviewed that the material was for background or embargoed in advance. You can’t just say something and then take it back. Media world doesn’t work that way.
Reed also engaged in some common misconceptions when blaming the reporter, claiming: “Basically, he duped me. Those may be my sentiments, but I feel like he put those comments in the magazine without my consent.” Reed went on to say that his statements regarding Manziel “were blown way out of context” and that the reporter was “looking to create headlines.”
News Flash: reporters don’t write headlines and they don’t care whether they make you look good or bad. They care about their story; that’s their job and what they are paid to do. Reporters also have nothing to do with selling the magazine, ads or anything else. Anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom as I did for nearly 20 years knows reporters ideally have little contact with the commercial side of the business. And that is what media is: a business.
Media should be a partner in business endeavors, not a trumpet to showcase your prejudices. Be strategic about your approach to media encounters. Being deliberate and thoughtful—and considering the audience—is a much better approach.
Real leaders take responsibility for their behavior—and their comments.
They don’t blame the reporter.
By Darrell L. Browning