[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws3L1BJtdKE]I have a funky little gadget from Zoom that I couldn’t bear to be without. It’s a cross between a dictaphone and a video camera, and I use it to record press conferences.
The first time I stuck it on the top table under the nose of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he spent a good ten seconds trying to decide what it was, and then spent the rest of his time ignoring it.
It was also the subject of a complaint from a Sky News cameraman, who claimed it was ruining his shot- why he would be filming the table at a press conference wasn’t something we discussed.
As I searched this morning for an interview recording I made a couple of weeks ago, I watched some of the footage from the press conferences of the athletics events I’ve covered recently.
When you go into those situations, especially after a race or a game, you don’t always hear everything that’s being said, and that for a good reason.
Every journalist in the room is looking for something, usually a quote to confirm what they have already written and filed with their respective desk.
We all want something different from these situations, and as Paul Simon once wrote “a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest”.
What struck me, listening back, was the line of questioning from the Norwegian journalists in Oslo.
“What was it like running here?”
“What did you think of the crowd?”
“Did you like the Bislett track?”
Whereas foreign media were only interested in times and the World Championships and next year’s Olympics, the Norwegian media’s priority was to ask these stars who walked among us what they thought of their country.
It might seem a little odd, but then everyone does it – a week later in Stockholm the Swedish media was at it, asking shot-putters and hurdlers what they thought of the city as they gathered for the European Team Championships.
(They picked a bad day, as it was pissing rain and gridlocked in the city).
Seeing as everyone is doing it, it begs the question – do readers actually care what Usain Bolt or Cameron Diaz or Barack Obama actually think of a given city or country?
Do they really expect Bolt to say “I hate it here and I can’t wait to get out of here”?
Do they expect Obama to open his speech with “this place is a sh*thole- and I’ve been to Boisie, Idaho”.
No. Because like the visiting arena rock band going up on the stage and shouting “Hello Cleveland!” whilst barely knowing where they are, it’s not relevant and it has no value.
It’s just playing to the gallery, to be gotten out of the way after the second song and never mentioned again.
Only athletes or politicians or movie stars seeking to shorten their career would do otherwise.
Press conferences are often short affairs with little opportunity to get into anything like a deep discussion, but we might have more chance to get into detail if we didn’t ask questions that we already knew the answers to.
Instead, we make them jump through the hoops and tell us how great thery think we are.
But if we skipped all that, maybe we’d have time over to ask about money and medals and doping and all the other things that sports fans really want to read about.