Freed captives video makes morning TV interviewers seem unnecessary

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It is only a media footnote to the larger story of three young women who were horribly victimized looking as if they are successfully reclaiming control of their lives.

But it was nevertheless fascinating to see how successfully Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, the trio of Cleveland women kidnapped and held captive for over a decade, were able to bypass the TV morning shows in delivering their message of thanks on a YouTube video Monday.


The three women are exactly the kind of figures network morning television shows like "Good Morning America" and "Today" have long fought over for exclusive interviews. Morning TV producers, with their checkbooks, used to act like they owned this kind of story.

But in the new media world, the trio did not have to open themselves to interviewers trying to turn their story and suffering into a ratings spike. And good for them. I was so glad not to have to suffer the artifice and performance of a celebrity interviewer to hear what these women had to say.


The strategy of self-production doesn't work for everyone, of course. Check out any of Paula Deen's recent YouTube apology disasters.

But if you are someone who seems to have a right to some control and privacy, and you have professionals who seem to understand the new media landscape, why bother with the morning show hustlers?

The question is: What happens to the morning shows if they all lose the ratings staple of  big-get interviews to people who decide to control how their stories are told and avoid Matt, George and all the rest?

I admit it makes me uncomfortable to find myself on the side of a PR effort clearly set up to bypass journalists. But the kind of interviews done by the likes of Natalie Morales have almost nothing to do with what I call journalism.

A note of thanks to Tim Swift, Sun digital editor, for suggesting I take a look at the way this video found an audience of millions online Monday.

Here's part of the note of explanation posted with the video on YouTube. It identifies the PR firm, Hennes Paynter Communications, which made and uploaded the video. It also explains its relationship to the women.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would like to say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world who have offered support to them. They are extremely grateful for the tremendous outpouring of kindness they have received and wished to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages with this video.

The women still maintain a strong desire for privacy and ask that everyone continue to respect their wishes in that regard going forward. Thank you.


:00 - :33 Amanda Berry (Survivor)
:43 - :47 Gina DeJesus (Survivor)
:49 - 1:08 Felix DeJesus (Gina's Father)
1:09 -- 1:43 Nancy Ruiz (Gina's Mother)
1:48 -- 3:30 Michelle Knight (Survivor)

The video was filmed on July 2, 2013 at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio. Visible in the background of the video is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The male off-camera voice heard in the video is that of Howard Fencl (pronounced FEHN-sill), vice president of Hennes Paynter Communications. The attorneys, public relations firm, social media strategist and videographer involved in the production of this video are all working pro bono on behalf of the three women.