Posted by Editoress on 05/28/12
Minutes after Ryder Hesjedal's incredible victory yesterday in the Giro d'Italia the inevitable happened: the general media rediscovered cycling. I, and I'm sure most other cycling 'experts', were immediately beseiged with requests for interviews and comments.
Steve Bauer, Tracy and I, and about 100 other people had watched the final stage at Krys Hines' Cafe Domestique coffee bar in Dundas, Ontario (see our videos of the event here), and a variety of television crews showed up to cover it.
Don't get me wrong; it is a great thing when the national, non-cycling media pays attention to our sport, and I know that, long term, the exposure will get more bums on saddles (at least for a while). Maybe, the next Ryder Hesjedal will get inspired by what they saw in Milan yesterday.
Unfortunately, this sudden, frantic, exposure usually leads to a lot of misinformation too, and the general media, having moved on at that point, doesn't do much to correct it.
A case in point yesterday was my interview with CTV. After having done bits with the local Hamilton station, TSN and I'm not sure who else, on location in Dundas, I was contacted by CTV to see if I could come into their studio to go on-air for a piece. I said sure - it's good for the sport and, of course, doesn't hurt Canadian Cyclist either.
So I talk with the researcher, who asks all sorts of great questions about cycling, stage races, the difference between mountain biking (where Ryder started) and a Grand Tour, etc. She also gets background on me, and my relationship with Ryder, which is that I've known him since he was 15, and have followed his entire career, and that I am very pleased and proud of this accomplishment.
The researchers are great - they ask all sorts of good questions, ask for details, write it all down, confirm it with you and then use it to create a backgrounder and script for the on-air personality that you will actually talk with. They pretty much always get it spot on.
The problem - in my experience - is often the on-air person. They are busy jumping from one topic to another and maybe have two minutes to absorb the material supplied from research. On occasion, they actually get a chance to speak with me for 30 seconds before we go live (and it is usually live).
In my experience, the interview goes one of three ways:
1. Just Get It Done. This is just one of a long series of two to five minute bits, and the host follows the script, asks the predetermined questions, I give the correct responses, and it all goes according to plan. Not particularly exciting, but it gets the information out there and no mistakes are made. The hosts are professional, courteous and it is smoothly done.
2. Why Are We Wasting My Time? This also follows the script (mostly) but, for whatever reason, the host has a particular axe to grind, or thinks the topic is just not worth their time. To be honest, it doesn't happen often, because most hosts are very good at what they do, and aren't there to make guests look bad.
However, it does happen - usually, in my experience, it happens if the host has a preconceived idea that cycling is a dirty sport, and wants to push the 'cyclists are dopers' theme. I try to remain polite, agree that there is doping in cycling, just like there is in hockey, American-style football, and every other major sport, and point out that cycling actually tests, so therefore you will get positives, unlike the aforementioned, hockey, etc. The interview may or may not recover from that point.
3. I'm Going Off-Script. This is either the worst or best type of interview. Occasionally you get a host that is passionate about the sport and knowledgable - Jacquie Czernin at CBC Radio in Quebec City is an example. Then, the interview becomes a real discussion, and there is a chance to impart some of the excitment of the sport and real information on what is happening in that particular situation. These interviews are great but, unfortunately, rare.
The other possibility is the dreaded 'I don't really know anything about this topic, but I've developed an angle...' Here, the host may start with the script but heads off topic with their own interpretation of what is going on. This is usually wholly in opposition to the facts. Sometimes, you (the guest) can steer it back on topic, but often it ends up being a very confusing, rambling conversation that leaves everyone bewildered at the end.
So, back to the CTV interview, which became one of the 'I don't really know anything...' variety. I sat down with the host before we went live, who talked about how much he loves riding his bike - great, I think, a fan of the sport. Then he asks me a bit about my background and how I know Ryder, and this is where it all goes surreal.
I say that I used to be a bike racer who then moved into journalism. I also say that I've known and followed Ryder since he first appeared on the national scene as a 15 year old, racing mountain bikes out of Victoria - exactly what I told the researcher and, which she assures me afterwards, is what she put in the briefing notes.
My host manages to turn that into Ryder and I started racing together at age 15 and he's been my best friend ever since! Suddenly, I've lost over 20 years, and I have a BFF who owns a house in Maui...
He drops this in my lap after the opening intro. I'm literally speechless for a second and then start frantically trying to think about how I can correct this without making him look like a complete idiot (or me as a lying suckup to Ryder).
I get an opening at one point and slide in (smoothly, I think) a correction ... okay, we're back on track. But then, with a sinking feeling, I realize that he hasn't listened to what I said, because he mentions again about my 'best friend'. He's got a hook, and he is not deviating. All I can do is smile, a little sickly, and wait for it to be over.
Finally, it is, the researcher is standing there and starts apologizing, and one of the technicians makes a crack about dropping 20 years ... oh great, they all caught it.
Maybe no one I know saw it. However, I find out this morning that my lovely wife posted a Twitter link to it, after Krys Hines sends a text: 'I had no idea you were 31'.
It started out as such a nice day..
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