Advice from the Media | Deroy Murdock
Name: Deroy Murdock
Title: Nationally syndicated columnist
Media Outlet: Scripps Howard News Service
Twitter Handle: Real men don’t Tweet!
Personal Blog: I do not blog. I write articles.
1) Describe your typical workday in 140 characters or less.
Woke up. Got out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head. Spent day worrying about the world and thinking up solutions to its problems.
2) What’s the best pitch you’ve ever received?
When Stefan Gleason was spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee, he always could get me to write about Big Labor bosses by giving me examples of union violence. He would mention someone who got his tires slashed or face rearranged by some union thugs. Like tossing a Frisbee before a Labrador, I immediately would run in whatever direction Gleason wanted. To mix metaphors, Gleason knew how to push this button, and he did it perfectly and repeatedly.
3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you?
I once asked Scripps Howard’s Jay Ambrose how to handle some situation. He said, “Well, Deroy, as long as we’re trying to do the right thing.” I always thought that was a worthy and achievable standard that also recognized that we journalists are neither perfect nor saintly.
4) If there were one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be?
Take care of the small things, and the big ones fall into place. If you have an event in New York City, for God’s sake, include the cross street in the address. Where on Earth is 350 Fifth Avenue? I have NO idea. Ah. It’s at West 34th Street. Thank you for sparing me from having to look that up, which just make me grind my molars. Don’t just tell me that an event is on December 10. Tell me it’s on Monday, December 10. I may know right away that Mondays are always bad for me. So, I quickly can decline an invitation, without having to stop, grab my calendar, leaf through it, and finally learn that this is on a Monday. Then, in a fit of frustration at the publicist’s inexactitude, I must send my regrets, while also grinding my molars into mandibular dust. Also, don’t call us commentators “reporters.” We all are journalists. But commentators are not reporters, any more than surgeons are dermatologists, although they all are doctors. Yes, refer broadly to all of us as journalists. But some of us specifically are commentators. Some are reporters. You also have editors, producers, bookers, and others. Calling us all reporters is inaccurate, irritating, and indicative of a lack of sophistication among those who make this annoying mistake.
5) What’s your craziest or most interesting newsroom story?
I was a staff commentator at MSNBC in 1996. We got word that Ross Perot named Pat Choate to be his vice-presidential running mate. Just as we went into a commercial, the director ordered three of us “MSNBC Friends” to hop on the set to discuss Perot’s choice with our anchor on live TV. I believe this was John Siegenthaler. None of us ever had heard of Pat Choate. So, I found his biography online via the Alta Vista search engine. (This was before the magic of Google.) I printed out four copies and handed them to the anchor and the other commentators.
“Thirty seconds,” the stage manager said.
We all quickly read through Choate’s bio and, once back on air, totally ad-libbed what viewers may have thought was our deep and longstanding expertise on Pat Choate. What we literally did was read out lines from his bio and then expand them into broader points about the man and the race. I believe that I noted that Choate is an economist, which would complement Perot’s interest in the economy, and that he is a known skeptic of globalization, which should be interesting given the then-still-hot debate over the wisdom of the NAFTA free-trade agreement.
Moral of the story: Sometimes talking heads know what we’re saying. Other times, we wing it like seagulls.
6) What sets your commentary apart from the competition?
Agree or disagree with my ideas, no one can say that I do not back up what I have to say. I try very hard to present concrete evidence for my thoughts on public policy. I use facts, figures, quotes, published statistics, and even my own figures generated by spreadsheets and graphs that I produce, some times in conjunction with my best friend and occasional research associate, a Manhattan financier named Mr. Brett A. Shisler. Some commentators just assert points. I work studiously to demonstrate them through actual proof. This is difficult and time consuming. However, this yields much more solid opinion pieces, which often give reliable ammunition to policy makers, other commentators, and even laymen who use my work to advance human freedom and prosperity.
7) Any shameless self-promotion you want to add?
Please read my pieces in some of the 400 newspapers to which Scripps Howard News Service distributes weekly. Almost all of my pieces are posted and then archived on National Review Online, with which I am a contributing editor. You also can watch me on Fox News Channel, where I am a Fox News Contributor. Finally, I am a Senior Fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. As a sort of “Johnny Cato seed,” we support or collaborate with some 440 free-market think tanks in the USA and 82 countries worldwide. Atlas welcomes the tax-deductible support of freedom-loving people everywhere. When Atlas revolves around the Sun, so do I.