August 2007 – From time to time, friends and AFA supporters ask what it’s like to be in the media spotlight. Now, I’m no superstar, but I do have frequent opportunities to talk about AFA in the media. Each month I do several interviews with reporters from newspapers, radio stations and television networks. When I majored in communication at Mississippi State University in the 1980s my intention was to be the interviewer, not the interviewee. My goal at the time was to be the sports editor for a newspaper somewhere. But when my dad offered me an opportunity to join him at AFA in 1986, I took him up on it and have been here since. And it was not long after I arrived that I began taking many of the interview requests.
Sometimes the requests are for comments on something in the news such as a Supreme Court decision. Other times members of the media want to ask me about some AFA initiative.
When I first began doing these interviews I was always a bit anxious, not wanting to say something stupid or illogical that would reflect poorly on my dad or on the ministry, especially when I was on national television. I have done many of these through the years, including shows on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and the Fox News Channel, and I have always managed to survive.
In the early days of this ministry, back in the late 1970s and ’80s, my dad went on programs like the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder and Nightline with Ted Koppel. Both of these gentlemen basically gave Dad a fair shake. Then he went on Phil Donahue’s program. During that time Donahue was the most popular daytime talk show host in the country. Dad was the only guest, and Donahue spent an hour ridiculing him and his ministry. But Donahue’s plan backfired. As a result of that interview, many people learned about AFA and joined us.
With each interview request that comes in, I also have to consider what might be the motive of the show – or angle of the host – that has invited me on. I also take into consideration what my chances are of getting a fair shake (since most of the national news media are liberal). Will I be able to get our perspective across to the viewers? This is a guessing game, but after you’ve been doing this for 20 years you develop a pretty good feel for it.
Most of the time I agree to appear on the programs. The way I look at it, if the show cares enough to call and invite someone from AFA’s perspective, then I need to make every effort to accommodate them. Besides, people who watch news and informational programs are more serious-minded than the average American and are the kind of people we hope to reach with our message. So, unless I sense I am being “set up,” I almost always do the interviews.
Usually when I do one of these programs I have to drive to a studio in Memphis, about 90 minutes from our offices in Tupelo, Mississippi. There have been a handful of times when I was able to do the shows from our offices using a mobile satellite uplink, but most of the time I have to go to a studio.
When you are a guest on a program and you are not in the same studio with the show’s host, it is more difficult. What most people don’t realize is that you can only hear the person talking to you through an earpiece and you cannot see them. You have to look into a camera. This puts you at a distinct disadvantage if someone opposing your view is in the studio with the host. The opposing party can interact with the host as well as see his or her body language and facial expressions. You have to really discipline yourself to look into the camera or else you tend to start letting your eyes wander, which can make you appear aloof and distracted.
In addition to being prepared, the other main ingredient to doing a successful interview on one of these shows is prayer. I always ask people to pray for me before and during the program. I believe God will give you the right words to say if I am prepared and have prayed. Speaking of prayer, please remember to pray for us daily. Pray that when we do these interviews, the viewers and listeners will know that the righteousness of God has been lifted up.