When the needs of newspaper, radio, or television reporters interfered with your work, how did you deal with the problem?


Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How did you typically deal with the media? Did you see it as a help or hindrance to your process?

Answer:
Oh heavens! Are we talking very specifically or are we talking in general?

Question:
In general, for a start.

Answer:
If I'm mediating, I absolutely avoid having the media there. So far I think there's only one exception to that statement. I generally do not allow media into the mediation. I make sure that I explain to them beforehand why, and try to explain that if media's in the room, we end up having two levels of negotiation. We have one level of negotiation which was sort of typical mediation, trying to resolve a problem. But we've got another level where they're talking strictly to the media wanting to make sure that they say what needs to be in the paper in the morning. That is not necessarily conducive to actually solving a problem. I have generally found media to be very understanding of that and accepting of that. If it's a formal type of mediation process, I try to tell them that when the mediation is completed we will be sure they get a copy of the signed agreement. We will have a press conference where they can talk to the parties that were involved, if they want to do that. But we ask them please understand that at the time negotiations are going on-- within that setting-- it just would undermine the process. They've usually been pretty understanding of that.






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What kind of problems did they cause or how did they interfere with your work?

Answer:
They might reveal some information some of the parties don't want to release. Especially the local media, they're part of the community too. It all comes back to self-interest and what role would be in your best interest. You might get a scoop, but then you've hurt your self interest by doing it that way. Be cognizant of the effects and that's all. Especially during assessments on mediations. The parties may be hesitant to express themselves or may play to the media if reporters are present. The parties should be addressing each other and in a frank manner.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you deal with the media?

Answer:
Well I dealt a little more boldly than many CRS people because I was a former reporter and editor. So I tried to use the media positively when I could to help the case or the agency. Typically we would have to be cautious with the media. What I would try to do, when I didn’t want to engage with the media, but the case had visibility, would be to have a prepared brief comment and say no more. I counseled my staff to do the same.

Question:
At the end of each day or how often?

Answer:
Sometimes when you arrived in a community. If the media knew you were coming, reporters might be waiting for you or the would call you in your office. Again you reach into your box of stock phrases and know what to say, such as, "We’ve been invited,” and again you don’t say who invited. "We’ve been invited to come in and talk to people involved in the school issue that has been so widely publicized in the community. When we heard about it we called some of the individuals locally involved in the problem to see if we can be of assistance.” "What are you going to do here?” "We’re going to see if we can be of assistance.” "Do you think…?” "I don’t know, we just arrived and we just don’t know.” You just stop talking and get out of there. Or in the break of a mediation, "The parties have met and we’ve talked for four hours today and we will resume tomorrow. We’ve made good progress in exploring the issues.” And you’d say no more. "Are you optimistic?” You might say, "Our people are listening to each other.” You try to do something to focus positively on the parties and get out of there. Often in mediation, you work out a press policy with the parties. They might want to make a statement or they may want the mediator to do it for them. Now, the most important rule to me was that the parties involved in the conflict often were seeking recognition and heightening public awareness of the conflict no matter what side they were on, and they don’t want the mediator hogging all of the newspaper space. So if you stay out of the story, it leaves room for coverage of the parties and they want their voices out there, they want their names in the paper. So I tried to not get in the way of that.

Question:
How often did the parties say things to the press that would have been better not said?

Answer:
I don’t know. It happened, but I can’t make that judgment for a party because maybe I didn’t like it, but from their end it may have been important.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

For example, if you've told someone that you aren't there to investigate them and it shows up in the newspaper, or the Justice Department shows up to investigate university’s treatment of minorities, well that can take away your trust.

Question:
Did it happen?

Answer:
It happened a lot. The media always wants us to investigate, and no matter how often you tell them, "We aren't investigating,” it shows up in the headlines that Justice is there to investigate. You have to respond immediately back to the institution or the minorities, or whoever is involved and say, "I know that's happened and I'm sorry. There is nothing I can do about it, but this is what I told them and this is still the reality." I guess the other part of that is learning not ever to become defensive. If someone challenged me on something, then I try to respond to that in terms of if they believed that was the way I was acting, then I would respond to that and make changes.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I think in some rare instances, they got in the way because they wanted you to play the case out through them and you had to say, "No, I don't want to talk to you." You didn't say it that way, but you told them that you wanted to deal with the people by yourself. Then when it was over, sometimes, if they were interested, we would talk to them. But if we talked to them, we'd have representatives from the parties there to talk about it and introduce themselves.



Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever have a situation where the news and media were contrary to you, or interfered with work? How did you deal with the problem?

Answer:
Well yes, a couple of times. In the riot situations, when you know very well that the media doesn't need to be involved in the meetings. But they tend to want to be very aggressive, and they're poking cameras in every hole and nook and cranny, trying to get a shot of such-and-such a person, and trying to get people to go and get on camera. And you know very well this person cannot represent a group, or even themselves accurately. But it's not the national media, it's always the local media people. The national media people all have, to me, been very, very reputable.




Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Well how about the media then, was that a liability or an asset? How did confidentiality play into that?

Answer:
I never wanted anything to do with opinion. That's always been a strange issue about contacting the media. I usually didn't want any part of it because they would always end up asking the wrong questions as far as I was concerned. In the case we've been talking about, that was something I think that was settled very quickly because the media was following the case and they knew something was going on. A lot of questions were being asked and telephone calls being made to offices. In most cases it was agreed that I was the mediator in the situation, and we just made it clear to the media that I was the person that they were to contact. The parties, in that case, were good about that. They directed telephone calls or media contacts to me. So in those cases, if there was a role, then I would deal with the media. If I was walking into a situation that was particularly sensitive, say there were demonstrations going on, it was probably my policy to avoid the media. And if they would call in certain situations, I wouldn't answer their calls, because I didn't see that they would get anything positive from me.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you deal with those situations, when someone leaked something that was confidential?

Answer:
There were a lot of times when you wouldn't say anything. You wouldn't confirm it, one way or the other. Somebody was always trying to confirm what came out over the TV, or in an article in a newspaper.







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