So umm… Could we read through the article first?

ByAnnelies Baeten

So umm… Could we read through the article first?

A common request, but one that isn’t always handled well. Of course you’re free to ask, but most journalists don’t like it. They experience this question as a lack of trust, as well as a threat to already tight deadlines. It may well be possible, but not necessarily. What is the best approach?

Ask beforehand

For interviews likely to be “difficult”, due to the sensitive subject matter for example, it’s best to ask if the piece may be reviewed prior to the actual interview. Depending on the answer – the journalist may refuse – you can decide whether or not to proceed with the interview.
Once an interview has taken place it will be much harder to raise the issue and ensure a review. Being allowed to review an article before publication is a courtesy, and it is up to the journalist whether or not to agree to this. You should therefore take care to only provide compelling suggestions or comments. Made a regrettable statement during an interview? It’s too bad, but those can’t be taken back. It is difficult to change quotes after the fact. The journalist only cares about the factual accuracy. Any attempt to adjust the tone of an article in your own favour is sure to fail. Moreover, the journalist will consider this both objectionable and insulting, to your detriment. Good luck being invited for future interviews…
Are you unhappy with the chosen angle and are you wary of employee or shareholder reactions? Reading the article will at least give you a chance to prepare for the aftermath. Important: if a journalist entrusts you with their work, be prompt in your response. Nothing is more annoying than having to wait for feedback.

Balance

If a journalist does decide to permit the work to be reviewed, this implicitly commits them to taking any comments on board. They can be expected to change any incorrect facts or figures. Do you have serious issues with the article or is it clear that the journalist has misunderstood something? Pick up your phone for calm, reasoned discussion and clarification. However, always give yourself some time to process things first and strive for a balanced compromise.

Preparation is king

Are you scheduling an interview with a journalist? The previous section has probably made it clear that reviews won’t solve everything. The most important rule is and remains proper preparation. Determine your core message and exactly what you wish to communicate beforehand. A rambling discourse won’t help your cause and just makes the journalist’s work harder. A clear narrative also has a much better chance of reappearing in the article. Think about how you wish to handle difficult questions and use roleplaying or media training to prepare yourself.

Win-win

The main thing is for both you and the journalist to feel satisfied with the final result. Remember: ideally, an interview should be a win for both parties.

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