If you’re a blogger or an activist or someone researching asexuality, chances are that someone will one day ask you to do an interview, or to be in the media in some form. If you’re thinking about talking to the media, I’ve put together a list of some of the things you might want to consider before your interview.
1. Am I ready to be out in public?
This seems like an obvious one, but if you’re in a magazine article or on TV, people will see you, including people like family and colleagues and acquaintances you may not be out to. Sometimes the sort of people who are likely to see something will depend on the type of media (for instance, when I spoke to a popular women’s magazine, I wasn’t too worried about people seeing it, because no-one I knew read women’s magazines). This is something you need to be sure of though. If you’re not comfortable potentially being out to everyone in your life, you may want to consider not doing the interview or story. If the interview is just text, you may want to stipulate that your name can’t be published, or that only your first name can be used.
2. Are there things I just don’t want to talk about?
Interviewers can ask you all sorts of personal and invasive questions. For instance, ‘do you masturbate?’ is one that has come up quite a bit for me. If that’s not something you’re comfortable discussing, then you can simply decline to answer or ask to move on to the next question or topic. It’s worth making a list (whether it be on paper or a mental list) of things you don’t want to talk about. Don’t feel like you have to answer absolutely everything an interviewer asks you.
3. Am I talking about another person?
This ties into the second point, but is super important and can sometimes be easily forgotten. If you’re talking about your relationship(s) or partner(s) in an interview, you should always make sure that they are ok with you talking about them to the media. It’s helpful to talk to them beforehand about what you can and can’t say or go into detail about. For instance, I’m in a committed platonic relationship with someone, and last week I spoke to a freelance writer for a story on asexual relationships and how ace people find companionship. I know my partner isn’t comfortable with the idea of being identified in the media. So while I talked about them in the interview, I was careful to not include identifying or personal information, and stipulated that their name couldn’t be published.
4. Know that the story may turn out differently to what you expect
Even though I’ve always been offered a read-back of the stories I’ve been interviewed for, that doesn’t always happen, and often you won’t have any control over things like images, captions, text boxes or headlines. Sometimes things you say won’t come across in exactly the way you meant them. Sometimes you may get tacky headlines or text boxes (for example, a text box saying that asexual people are more likely to commit suicide in an article on how you are happy to be asexual). Even if you are as clear as you can be during the interview, this can still happen, so don’t freak out if something in the story doesn’t ring exactly true. It’s easy enough to say to people you know that something was taken out of context, or slightly misinterpreted.
5. Be prepared, but don’t freak out
Talking to the media can be pretty daunting, because you don’t know what people will ask you. You’ve probably got some idea about what your interviewer is going to ask you from emails and preliminary conversations. Think about how you might answer some common questions in advance. These might include things like:
- What does asexuality mean to you? What does it mean that you identify as asexual/aromantic/heteroromantic (etc.)?
- When and how did you decide you were asexual?
- Are you in a relationship? How does your relationship work? What does your partner think of your (a)sexuality?
- Have you ever had sex?
- Why do you think it is important that people know about asexuality?
If you don’t know how to answer something or feel like you’re not explaining something very well, say so. Take a moment to collect your thoughts, or ask that the interviewer clarify a question. Most of the time you will be doing much better than you think. Remember, interviewers are just people too!
6. Know that you’re doing something worthwhile
Any positive media coverage about asexuality is an achievement in itself, and you’re doing something courageous and worthwhile in speaking to the media about issues that can really be quite personal. Be proud of what you’re doing! I like to think that if there is one person who reads a story about asexuality that I’m featured in and then feels better about themselves, or like a door has been opened for them, then that’s something amazing and worth celebrating.
What tips would you add for talking to the media? Please feel free to share any experiences or ideas that others might appreciate or learn from.
Yep. For instance I was pretty satisfied with the HuffPost coverage last month and yet the sensationalistic headline they chose to represent asexual violence and discrimination with was “I hope you get raped,” which was right next to a picture of my face. Not comfortable. Good guideline.
I saw that too, swankivy, and it was kind of confronting to see actually. Some bad placement of text and images there.
I’ve not done media work on asexuality before, but once I was quoted in a Christian magazine. I made a special effort to make every sentence I wrote self-contained, and impossible to take out of context (it was a bit of a hostile interview). As a result, all they could get out of me was that I opposed book burning, LOL. Anyway, what I learned was that they may only report small snippets of what you say. Work on those soundbites!
That’s a good point– not only speak in soundbites, but make sure those soundbites are essentially indivisible.
Also, re: being outed: even if it’s in a publication that no one you know reads, remember that nearly everything gets posted online these days, so be aware that if anyone ever googles your name there’s a chance they may stumble upon the article
Also – I definitely second Siggy’s suggestion to work on soundbites! Even if you aren’t as worried about misrepresentation, the media love short, concise, and interesting soundbites that they can fit into an article, and those are what they’ll mostly use; explanations that are long and winding may make good background information but they’re a lot harder to use.
Did the list somehow disappear from the post? I was able to see it in my RSS reader, but…it’s not here on the actual blog.
It was an error on our end. Thanks for letting us know!
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