Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Not to Say: Shirley Sherrod Interview

In Sherrod's speech, it was evident that she is not racist nor was she proclaiming a racist doctrine. It was also evident, however, that she is not the best public speaker, and took the idea of "getting comfortable with your audience" a bit too far. I admire her courage in speaking with the media, especially after the media created her short downfall (its amazing how one can be dirt on Monday, but a saint by Wednesday), but it would have been to her benefit to seek the counsel of a PR professional (or one who knows how to maneuver around certain audiences) to help her "say the right things.."

This is where I come in..

In the video clip from CNN's American Morning, Sherrod gets a bit too comfortable for my taste with the journalists, going into too much detail when addressing questions. While I enjoyed the interview for her candor, sadly there is a dire need to use caution expressing opinions on national TV. Let's take a look at some of her responses, and my recommended response:


#1 When asked if she would take the new job offer, possibly in a civil rights role in the Office of Outreach

Sherrod's Answer: "I'm not so sure that going back to the department is the thing to do"

......"I would not want to be the one person at USDA that's responsible for issues of discrimination within the agency......You know, there's a lawsuit by black farmers, there's a lawsuit by Hispanic and Native American and women farmers ... There are changes that would need to happen in order to once and for all really deal with discrimination."

Better Answer: "My interest has always been for the people of rural Georgia, and it will take some time to review the position and address my concerns before I can truly make a decision. In any event, I plan to make the best decision for myself and my family"


#2 When asked if she would consider a defamation suit against Matt Breitbart:

Sherrod's Answer: "I really think I should. You know, I don't know a lot about the legal profession, but that's one person I'd like to get back at. Because he came at me. You know, he didn't go after the NAACP. He came at me."

Better answer: "That has come up in discussions but I haven't made any decisions on the matter"


#3 When asked on her thoughts about Obama's initial reaction and the White House's responses to racial matters ,

Sherrod's Answer: "He's my president. I support him fully. I'd like to help him to see some of the things he should do in the future that could be more helpful than what's happening right now to advance the issues of togetherness in this country."

Good Answer:


[Obama] "hasn't lived the kind of life I've lived. I know that he's African-American, or part African-American ... many of us are not totally black in our genes. I'm one of them. But he really, you know, when you get down to where the rubber meets the road, I think you need to understand a little bit more of what life is like at that level."

Better Answer: "We as African Americans, and most importantly as people, have different experiences and effects of racial issues, and if President Obama would like to take time to discuss, I would love the opportunity"


You see, when it comes to mainstream media, you have to learn that simple statements that cannot be misconstrued are the best methods of response. While I understand what Sherrod was attempting to convey in her responses, it is certainly not hard to pick out certain parts of her responses and make them seem to have a negative tone. I attribute most of her responses to nerves and simply being unprepared; its not as if she knew her speech on March 27 would cause this much drama so quickly. I hope that when she makes her decisions about her new job offer, or has her conversation with the President, she would have had the chance to prepare herself (AND READ THIS POST) because she will certainly have at least one more chance in front of media..

by the way, ALVIN GREENE.. you need to read this too!

1 comment:

  1. Image. In DC, a good image and a great reputation is like capital that everyone wants and no one is trying to lose. Ms. Sherrod didn't deserve the unwarranted (yet brief) punishment she received and she is fortunate that she been absolved of any wrong. Nevertheless, I feel as though, she should take care to ensure her image and reputation is not tarnished by comments that could once again be misinterpreted. Great Post!


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