We’ve all seen them: the interviews and articles that paint ARMY as nothing more than obsessed fans and BTS as just another boy band. We’ve all cringed and wished that the journalist hadn’t written a sentence that way or the the ARMY being interviewed hadn’t only discussed dance moves – and now that the Love Yourself world tour is in full-swing, journalists, reporters, bloggers, vloggers and documentarians will be out in full-force, looking for stories and people to interview.
We’ve already seen this happening in LA, and as reporters began requesting interviews, the tweets asking for advice or help on how to the handle the situation came rolling onto timelines across the world.
I attended journalism school, have freelanced for various entertainment publications, and have worked full-time in a variety of communications fields including radio and public relations, so this is an area where I can help. If you’re ever approached by a journalist of any stripe for an interview – via social media, email, or in person – here’s some advice on how to proceed.
It’s Okay to Say No
First things first: you can absolutely say no. If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason or just aren’t interested, that’s completely fine. You shouldn’t feel pressured into giving an interview – it’s completely your choice on if you want to do it or not, and if you don’t, then don’t.
“No, thank you, I don’t want to be interviewed,” is perfectly polite and you don’t have to say anything else. If the person keeps bothering you, tell them to leave you alone and after that if they don’t, you’ll call security or the police.
It’s Also Okay to Say Yes
If you’re open to being interviewed, here are a few things to know:
1) Ask for credentials
Members of the media or press usually have some sort of identification, be it a press pass around their neck, a name tag, or a business card. If they’re from a broadcast station (TV, radio, Youtube, etc.), they’ll have a microphone or camera and at least one other person with them, and if they’re from a TV news or radio station, there will likely be a truck with their station’s logo on it somewhere nearby.
If the journalist tells you the name of their publication or station and you aren’t familiar with it, ask for a business card AND look up the site. Give it a scan and decide if you think it looks legit or not.
If they don’t have a business card (for example, a lot of freelancers don’t have official business cards or if someone didn’t bring them, etc. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t have one.), Google their name, find a bio or other published works, in order to make sure they are who they say they are. Check their credentials and the credentials of their workplace before deciding to move forward.
2) Ask about their angle
You can and should ask about the angle of their story: is it fan reactions, a trend piece about BTS, a bigger piece about K-pop, etc. Legit journalists won’t have any issue discussing this with you, so don’t be afraid to ask any questions you have.
That said, do keep in mind the angle could change depending on factors like the rest of the information they get in other interviews, any events that happen in real time that impact the show or the news cycle, or based on what their editor decides they want after the fact.
Bottom line, though: if it sounds like a piece you’d read, go for it. If you think it sounds shady, say no thanks.
3) Consent is important
If you move forward with the interview process from there, the journalist will ask for your consent to be interviewed verbally on camera or on tape (most likely using an app on their phone), and they may also ask you to sign a paper or digital consent form.
If they don’t ask this, you should remind them – getting consent is journalism 101, but it’s always possible that someone will forget in the rush to get the story. We’re all human, after all.
But if you ask about consent and they brush it off, that may be a sign that they aren’t professional and I would advise you to let them know that you don’t feel comfortable being interviewed by an outlet that doesn’t require their reporters to collect verbal or written consent and that you’d prefer not to be included in the piece.
4) Be prepared to provide personal info
Once you’ve given consent, you’ll be asked for some personal info – name, age, where you’re from – all of which is normal info to include in a piece. If you’re uncomfortable about this for any reason, let the reporter know that you don’t want it included in their article or video, and see what they say.
Some outlets require this information to go in a piece – if that’s the case and you don’t want to be involved anymore, that’s completely okay. Just politely let them know that.
5) Provide thoughtful answers
Once the journalist starts asking questions, it can be hard to focus, especially if the interview is happening in person for a number of reasons: there are people around stopping and watching, you’re self-conscious about being on camera or being recorded. But do your best to block everything else out and pay attention to what you’re being asked so that you don’t end up rambling or not answering the question. Think the question through – feel free to take your time, even if you’re on camera, as their job is to wait for your answers and they can always edit out pauses – and do your best to answer thoughtfully.
(I suggest you don’t fangirl – yes, you can admit that BTS are attractive men, but don’t use that as the only reason you are ARMY. Talk about their lyrics, their production, their impact on society, their message, UNICEF – you know all this. They’re way more than pretty faces. Also, try to avoid using lots of slang or Internet jargon, especially if the piece is going to be run in a newspaper or local news station.)
6) If things get weird…
In the event that you’re asked questions that seem weird or are full of rumors, allegations, or unsubstantiated news (dating, enlistment, death threats, drinking/drugs), say you don’t know anything about it and that they should contact BigHit for a comment.
If they’re persistent with these questions – rephrasing them or saying that perhaps you misunderstood – and it seems like the real intent of their piece is some sort of exposé or to focus on topics that are negative, tell them that on second thought you’d rather not be included in the piece.
If they’ve taken photos or videos, ask them to delete them in front of you, and if you signed a release, ask them to give it to you or delete it, depending on if it’s a paper release or an e-release.
7) If things get hostile…
In the event that you respectfully ask not to be included in the piece and they refuse, it’s likely that they aren’t professionals and are either working for a tabloid or have ulterior motives. Make sure you have their name and the publication or company name they gave saved somewhere – in the Notes app on your phone is a good spot – to ensure that you remember it later.
Get on the publication site and look up the staff info to find their editor or publisher – normally it’s at the bottom of the site, or in a drop down menu. If it’s not there, look on LinkedIn for their name. Email/message their boss and tell them not to include you in the piece and give a straightforward, civil account of the conversation you had with their writer/freelancer.
8) Do your best to relax and have fun
Hopefully your interview is ultimately a professional, fun, exciting process. Most journalists are not horrible people out to get you or disparage a group – they’re just out doing their job. Interviewing people can be really tough and exhausting, so do your best to ensure that interacting with ARMY is a great experience for them.
Upon publication or broadcast…
The dream scenario here is that the piece that you’re involved in is actually what the journalist told you it would be – the angle is the same, you’re quoted and represented accurately, and both ARMY and BTS are cast in a positive light.
But. The time between an interview and when the piece comes out is where things can sometimes go sideways, even if you’ve had a really great interview.
In the event that the piece isn’t what you thought it would be, here are a couple behind-the-scenes things to know:
- As mentioned above, sometimes the angle of a story changes in the writing/editing process. If the angle of the piece you are featured in changes, now that isn’t always the journalist’s decision – it can come from their editor or even their publisher. Sometimes changes are made by a copyeditor before the story is published, and the reporter isn’t given the chance to review the changes before the piece goes to print or goes live. There are a lot of factors that could go into why a story is changed that are not that you were lied to.
- Very important parts of a published story are often not up the reporter: headlines, for example, are usually written by copyeditors, not reporters, and photo editors choose images, not reporters. So if a headline is incendiary or clearly meant to be clickbait, or the image is not flattering or doesn’t include all members, keep in mind that that may not have been a decision made by the journalist you met.
If the piece contains criticism of ARMY or BTS, before you write a scathing tweet or email, take a moment to think about the criticism raised. There is a difference between a balanced piece that presents positives and negatives, and a biased piece. If the portions of the story that you take umbrage with are actually fair criticisms or reporting on something that happened that we all generally prefer to forget, then the journalist has done their job well when researching and writing.
However, if the published story is vastly different from what you were told it would be – and especially if it’s biased in a negative way, xenophobic, especially unflattering, or if you are misquoted or inaccurately represented – that is when the reporter should be blamed and confronted.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to them via email or online, and to express your disappointment and request an explanation. As always, try to do this in a professional, mature manner, but don’t be afraid to be blunt or accusatory if the situation calls for it. If you feel the need to defend yourself publicly, do it – social media is the perfect platform for that.
Remember the big picture
Overall, remember that reporters need you for their stories and that you can say yes or no: you are actually in control of the situation, not them. They rely on what you say to bring legitimacy and life to their pieces. So own that power, hype the guys, and have a blast.