[US to El Salvador & Nicaragua ’08]: Adam Probolsky: Flexibility is Key

01-12-2015 posted by Acypl

In 2008 I traveled to Nicaragua and El Salvador with ACYPL. The group of people I traveled with were definitely the highlight of the trip, but a very close second was being on the evening news, through no fault of my own, with the title, “Republican Senator.”

The Universidad Panamericana in El Salvador invited members of our delegation to participate in a forum on politics and I was chosen to participate on a panel in front of a live audience of over 100 local students, journalists, and politicians.  I adhered to the basic tenants we had been briefed on by the State Department which included making clear that my comments were my own opinion, not that of anyone else, and certainly never asserting to be a representative of the US Government.

Just after the forum ended, I was approached by a local TV news producer wondering if I would answer some questions about the differences and similarities in US and Salvadoran politics. I was working as a City Planning Commissioner in Irvine, California at the time and made sure to give the producer my card which clearly stated my name and title. I answered a series of questions in English, shook hands with the reporter and producer and left.

It was not until the next morning when our delegation arrived at the residence of the US Ambassador that I had any idea what had transpired the night before on the local news.

One by one, our delegation was greeted with big smiles and warm handshakes by the Ambassador and his wife as we walked into their living room. However, the Ambassador’s mood changed quite a bit when I approached. He handed me a DVD of the prior night’s evening news and cracked a smile through his sternness. He knew that I had not done anything wrong and was aware of how the local press operated.

It seems Channel 21 had an agenda, and my comments about politics in El Salvador fit perfectly into what they wanted to air; they also thought my comments would be more impactful coming from a US Senator, so, that is what they made me.

I now use the video from that broadcast as a teaching moment when lecturing at colleges about communications and media.

Unfortunately, I tell them, sometimes even with careful planning and consideration, things can still go awry.

Adam Probolsky is the Chairman and CEO of Probolsky Research LLC.

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