No. 1 press interview tip: The microphone is always on

Did Robert Durst incriminate himself because he forgot he was wearing a wireless microphone when he went to the men’s room? Even if the answer is “No,” his life will never be the same.

Robert Durst has a crisis on his hands in New Orleans. He is under arrest on murder charges, because of a major media interview goof-up. While being videotaped for a documentary on HBO, he went to the bathroom while still wearing the wireless microphone.

In every media training class I’ve ever taught, I’ve said, “Assume the camera is always rolling and that the microphone is always recording.”

Durst, suspected of three murders, mumbled to himself, while in the restroom and still wearing a wireless microphone, “What the hell did I do? I killed them all of course.”

Outside the restroom, the video camera was still rolling.

Every media pundit and legal expert is speculating about whether the recorded mumble was a self-confession or the absent-minded rambling of someone who talks to himself. But for the sake of this article, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that a crisis has taken over the life of someone who was careless on camera—someone who should know better. His life is in turmoil because of that microphone and video camera.

The lesson for all of you who do interviews is to assume the microphone is on and the camera is rolling and recording at all times. Presidents have been burned by this and news anchors as well.

(It was somewhat ironic to see John Roberts covering this story today for Fox. He is married to a friend of mine who wore a microphone into the CNN bathroom during a live presidential news conference, only to have her musings to herself broadcast around the world.)

Rule 1: Only put the microphone on just before the interview starts.

Rule 2: If you whisper anything to anyone while wearing the microphone you can assume the audio technician and the videographer will hear you, among others.

Rule 3: If you have to go to the bathroom, take the microphone off.

Rule 4: As soon as the interview is over, take the microphone off.

Rule 5: Remember there is a boom microphone on the video camera that can still pick up your audio.

A version of this article first appeared on Gerard Braud’s blog.

Topics: PR

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