You know that saying about “making a drama out of a crisis”? Well, there’s a lesson in some TV dramas about how to handle a crisis…or any media interview for that matter.
Medical dramas and crime series often feature doctors or scientists in the credits – a nod to their help in ensuring what’s been portrayed by actors has been as real as possible, whether the character have been carrying out an operation or looking at a fragment of bone under a microscope.
But all too often when such programmes feature a mocked-up newspaper front page in the story line – perhaps announcing the outbreak of a virus or exclaiming that a murderer has been caught – it rarely looks as though a journalist has been consulted to ensure the page looks authentic.
There was a very good example in a high-profile BBC drama this week. They showed a mocked-up page featuring the businessman at the heart of a gruesome investigation. In our view its headline alone would have been rejected in a real newsroom for several reasons, including:
1. typographical errors
2. it featured the subject’s full name. (If someone’s so well known that their surname appears in the headline, it doesn’t need their Christian name as well. When was the last time you saw “David Beckham” or “Richard Branson” in a headline?)
3. it contained full stops. Full stops, as the name suggests, halt the eye – just what you don’t want; the aim is to encourage the reader to carry on.
Another tell-tale sign can be the use of definite and indefinite articles in headlines – “the” or “a/an” – which add nothing to it (except padding, perhaps to even up the length of the “decks” if it runs over several lines).
The overall point here is that those who create such newspaper props either need to think more like a journalist, or employ a journalist to create them!
The former can be said too for anyone who is going to be interviewed by the media or pitch a story idea to them – they need to approach it like a journalist. That means they need to focus on the key facts, be succinct and consider what the audience wants to hear, rather than obsess about what they want to tell them.
Creating the headline they’d like to see on that story before they do the interview is a great place to start.