By Craig Regan
It’s a blip in the scheme of things but a clear case of Do As I Say, Not Do As I Do. I’m talking about Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ticking off of a journalist at her Adelaide media conference this morning.
Press Gallery journalists rightfully praised Gillard for giving one of her strongest performances ever in front of a media throng. That was until the final moments when The Australian’s Michael Owen asked about her role in the downfall of Kevin Rudd.
"So you just fell into the leadership?" he said at one stage – and kept going. Her response showed what not to do in front of an otherwise benign media pack.
"I’ll answer your question but, ah, just ... I’m not listening to this rudeness, I’ll answer your question and then I’ll give a question to your colleague, thank you very much... “I’m not going have you just speak to me like this. End of sentence. I’ll answer your question and I will take a question from your colleague.
"Your question is internally inconsistent. Let me answer it...well, I’ll answer it thanks very much... If you stop talking then I’ll give you an answer, but I can’t give you an answer if you keep talking.”
The appearance of Angry Julia not-so-deft sidestepping an issue might have been a play aimed at presenting her as a PM with renewed authority, but went dangerously close to portraying her as out of control.
That the reporter has since apologised doesn't quarantine footage fo the incident making the nightly news.
It wasn't quite on the scale of K Rudd’s Unhappy Little Vegemite YouTube video, mind you, but it's still not a good look.
At Lighthouse, we use media training to enable clients to handle questions exactly like this. So here's some free advice.
The most graceful response is to pause, stay silent until the questioner has run out of steam, acknowledge the question and answer or re-direct it, on your own terms.
Remember, it’s a reporter’s job to ask hard questions and probe. Ripping strips off them just distracts from the messages you were trying to convey.