The age-old advice for politicians and other famous folk has always been "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the gallon." (Or someone who has unlimited airtime on a heritage radio station, as this poor public information officer found out...check out PUSH COMES TO SHOVE IN NEWS ACCESS FEUD.) This story has unfortunately turned into a First Amendment rights issue, something that could get ugly if not handled quickly and deftly.
Hizzoner asked my advice on how to handle talk show hooligans, which I'll be happy to share with you:
- Contact the station management and lodge a formal complaint.
- Take the high road. They need you more than you need them--so what if they call you every lousy name in the book. You only stoop to their level AND more importantly, provide these schlock jocks with radio gold every time you step up to challenge them.
- If a response is necessary, use television to appeal to the general public. Book a little time on the highest-rated newscast to make the radio station an offer they can't refuse--or refute. (In this case, here's what I advised the mayor's PIO to say: "If the radio show hosts at WSPD want to get a response from the mayor, they don’t have to break down doors. Carty is willing to come down to their studios and talk to them whenever they want, face to face and man to man.")
- Hold a press conference, inviting the public (that's very important!) to apologize for the distraction from the mayor's higher responsibility and politely confront the radio station's representatives ("WSPD can’t have it both ways. They’re either reporters who deliver news stories in a fair and objective manner, or they’re talk show hosts who are free to comment on the news of the day…but it’s disingenuous to hide behind press credentials in order to further a ratings agenda. More importantly, it’s immature and unethical to ban the mayor from their airwaves while screaming for their First Amendment right to ask him questions.")
Nothing gets out of hand faster than a politician bickering with the media. If you're ever in this situation, try to ignore it. If you can't ignore, implore--then explore other media options.