Is it me who’s clever or you who’s stupid?


Speaking to journalists can be daunting, especially for people not used to the media spotlight. Media training can help, offering tips on how to get your message across clearly and consistently. But some people break all the rules – and get away with it. One is Dutch football coach Louis van Gaal, soon to be taking over the reins at Manchester United, who once remarked to a TV reporter: “Is it me who’s so clever, or you who’s so stupid?”

Such is his reputation among journalists that one Dutch reporter has drawn up a tongue-in cheek list of ground rules for his British brethren on the do’s and don’ts of interviewing Van Gaal.

“You will be patronised, looked at with disdain, and haunted by a constant doubt if Mr. Van Gaal is flat out making fun of you or being deadly serious,” writes Peter Zantingh in Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad.

His tips for British football journalists include not introducing yourself to Van Gaal, “or else he’ll know your name, remember it and use it against you”; not to repeat a question, no matter how cleverly disguised; to keep fact separate from opinion, which is difficult “as only Mr. Van Gaal can determine which are facts and which are opinions… your facts are opinions”; and finally: “It is not Mr. Van Gaal who has trouble speaking English, it is you, for not going along with his obviously much better interpretation of it”.

Van Gaal’s approach is a far cry from the tips and tricks you’ll hear in a Stampa media training. And usually we advise the interviewee rather than the interviewer. But we can only endorse the central message: when it comes to media interviews, forewarned is forearmed.

Click here to read the full article (in English) on NRC.nl.

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