On Sunday just before lunch, I was invited to be interviewed on Sky News on Monday morning about a letter I had signed calling on the Government to keep churches open even if there was another lockdown. This is what I said—but I also want to offer some reflections on what is required to engage well in the local or national media in this way:
There has been a very positive response to the interview—though listening back I think there are a number of things I could have done better. But these are my reflections on how to make the most of opportunities like this, whether they are local or national.
1. Say yes straight away
Those working in the media have pressing schedules. They must fill their slots, often at the last minute, and are desperate to get hold of names they can use. This is especially so in the case of covering religion, about which most of them will be completely ignorant. If they get in touch, then you are potentially the answer to their prayer (pun intended); they don’t have time for you to check your diary, come back to them, or allow you to suggest a change of schedule.
On Monday morning, I was planning to write an article for the blog, walk the dog, then go into a morning’s teaching on Zoom. It would have been easy to say ‘no’, but instead I rearranged what I had to do, including bringing some things forward into Sunday evening, in order to do this.
If you are approached, say yes unless it really is impossible. They won’t ask a second time.
2. Do your research
Offering a good comment means doing lots of research, and then selecting carefully the most important messages. I had already done a couple of morning’s work in order to write my piece at the end of last week on a Christian response to the possibility of lockdown—but there was more to do. I re-read the letter that I had signed, highlighting key elements and making notes, and also read some articles which had commented, for and against. I also read a further set of discussions about the pandemic and the response of lockdown, including one with Professor Sunetra Gupta, who used the phrase ‘ecological relationship with the virus’ which I mentioned.