How to Avoid Youm7 Journalist’s Mistake at the Oscars press room in Five Steps?

Image Credits: ABC News

The past few hours a video of an Egyptian journalist, Shimaa Abdelmoneim, at the Oscars went viral on every social media platform, entertainment website and public chat discussions in Egypt. The reason behind that was the fact that the question stirred laughter from Leonardo Dicaprio, director Alejandro González Iñárritu, as well as every other journalist out there. After introducing herself as the “first Egyptian journalist to cover the Oscars”, Abdelmoneim –an entertainment reporter covering for Youm7, One of the most-visited websites of any Egyptian newspapers, went on to ask Mr. Dicaprio “What about the first Oscar for you?”.

Instead of stating what went wrong, here are my tips for novice journalists on how to avoid mistakes in press room:

1) Be prepared

One of the main challenges that face entertainment journalists is the preparation step, whether it was the proper way to pronounce directors names or basic facts on each and every one of the nominees. The importance of this step is that it arms you with a bunch of questions in case one of the actors expected to grab an Oscar was snubbed at the unpredictable Academy Awards. Imagine being a journalist full of yourself betting your salary on “Brokeback Mountain” garnering that Best Picture award in 2005 when along comes “Crash” to steal the spotlight!

Practice makes perfect. You owe a huge part of your preparation process to practicing your interview skills and the way you phrase the questions. Say them out loud in front of the mirror. Record your questions and listen carefully for any mistakes especially in pronunciation. Try also role-playing your Q & A session with one or two of your friends and ask them for honest feedback on your performance.

2) Be Professional

Shimaa Abdelmoneim started her question by stating that she was the “first Egyptian journalist to cover the Oscars”. Apart from this being a questionable fact, it is also very unprofessional and irrelevant to the press conference attendees. It also throws a negative light on your news outlet which is not interested in the biggest awards ceremony as much as it is concerned with setting imaginary journalistic scores.

Another thing is that Abdelmoneim’s ice-breaker should have been directed at the interviewees as opposed to drawing the attention to her. As an Egyptian journalist trying to prove her professionalism against a cutthroat competition, she should be pointing the flashlight at Dicaprio and Iñárritu through her unique “Egyptian” angle.

3) Be Focused

You have prepared a bunch of great questions, and it’s your turn to ask. You’re sweating and stuttering with nervousness, and you blurt out whatever lame thought that first came to mind! You should always mark your strongest questions in BOLD whether in your head or on your tablet.

Shimaa asked Leonardo Dicaprio a very vague and confusing question, “What about your first Oscar?” She had a dozen alternatives that she could have used instead of that one, especially after the myriad of important questions that preceded hers in the press room:

  • If you were a member of the jury, which actor would you have voted the Best Actor award for?
  • Many critics see that “The Revenant” is not your most important role. Which other role did you hope to get an Oscar for?
  • You have worked with some of the best names in the industry. In what ways is collaborating with Iñárritu different from other directors?
  • “The Revenant” is considered a physically-draining role for you. Which is your most emotionally demanding role?

4) Be Flexible

When you get the feeling that the star (interviewee) disliked the question or found it uncomfortable use your brains to shift the situation to a more easygoing, friendly atmosphere.

Abdelmoneim insisted on a question that Leonardo Dicaprio found absurd. A journalist should know how to make use of the situation using their basic interview skill. An interview is like a ping pong match, whatever the other player throws at you, jump at it.

5) Be Creative

Showcase your profound cinematic knowledge. Try and seize the moment by knitting a question out of the star’s previous answers or one of his/her funny remarks. During the Academy Awards nominees luncheon 2011, Jesse Eisenberg took the stage and started the session by stating that “he didn’t know such a thing existed”. The first question came from a journalist who smartly asked him, “What other things about this process [the Oscars] did you not know existed?”