Friday, February 18, 2011

TJ Walker: Justin Bieber Brings Rolling Stone to Its Knees

TJ Walker: Justin Bieber Brings Rolling Stone to Its Knees: "

Folks, don't try this at home. Justin Bieber, and his army of handlers, actually had the clout to get Rolling Stone to put out a clarification about its recent interview with Bieber. Here are details from

Outrage almost immediately followed from folks who couldn't believe the answer Justin had given when asked whether abortions should be allowed in cases of rape, but no one was more upset that Justin's camp, who insisted he was misquoted.

Sure enough, something was very much omitted from his answer. After a lot of pressure, the mag had to post this message on their site and provide Justin's exact answer without the omission. The article reads:

Due to an editing error, this story originally included an incomplete quote from Justin Bieber. The full quote, his response to whether abortions should be allowed in cases of rape, reads: 'Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that.'

Two things jump out at me here. One is Perez Hilton's description of this as a misquote. He wasn't misquoted. Bieber was quoted accurately. It just wasn't as long a quote as team Bieber wanted.

Two, Rolling Stone's description of its story as having an 'incomplete quote' is truly extraordinary. I've never seen a media outlet admit to this before. Why? Because every single quote could always be described as an incomplete quote because you always could have tacked on another sentence or two.

It's true that when you look at the longer quote, Bieber's message is softened and seems less offensive to most people. Still, it's not a reporter's job to make the interview subject appear inoffensive to readers.

The rule I teach my clients is that when you are in a media interview, every single sentence and every phrase out of your mouth could be quoted in isolation so you have to make sure that each idea can stand on its own. Complex ideas in media interviews are usually dangerous for that very reason.

My clients often complain about being misquoted, and when I ask them enough questions, it turns out they were not misquoted. Next, they complain about being quoted out of context. But then the clients realize that every quote is quoted out of context. All quotes are pulled out of the context of an entire conversation, most of which didn't make the final story. So it's futile to complain about being quoted out of context.

Most of the time when someone complains to me about being misquoted, what he or she really means is this: 'I was quoted accurately. I don't like my quote because it makes me look stupid. I don't want to blame myself, even though I said it. So I think I will blame the reporter or the publication.'

Tough! I repeat; it's not the reporter's job to make you look good. It's your job to make yourself look good in an interview.

I would caution any PR person or business executive from looking at the Rolling Stone retraction and clarification on this Bieber 'rape' issue and drawing any lessons from it. The only lesson I learn is that if you are the number one tween singing sensation on the planet and you have all of the most powerful agents, lawyers, publicists, and media corporations working on your behalf, you can get almost any media outlet to bend over backwards to say whatever you want.

But if you aren't Justin Bieber and you want the media to do a 'correction' or 'clarification' because you don't like the length of your quotes, good luck!

Because it's not going to happen!