Melinda M. Steenbergen

Media interviews for Alberta Transportation

Over six months with Transportation, in a temporary position covering someone’s mat leave, I conducted over 150 media interviews. These included TV, print and radio, canned and live. Several times, when a natural disaster occurred or a new release was well-received, there was more than 10 in one day. It is important to be confident, thoughtful, factual and empathetic–all while staying on message, listening carefully to the reporters’ questions and always considering the target audience.

As a mindful citizen who investigates government and industry practices, and who doesn’t tolerate bullshit especially well, I think of myself as a member of the target audience. Was the question answered? Did I sound like a human or a bureaucratic automaton? Did I come across as understanding the issues? While representing a organization filled with high-qualified, committed and intelligent engineers, it was important to represent the competence and conscientiousness I saw my colleagues apply to projects that directly influence citizens’ daily lives.

I wanted to be a reporter when I grew up, and this is as close as I’ve gotten. The trick is investigating your own organization, digging deep into internal files and picking the brains of the people who design, build, finance, manage and inspect billions of dollars’ worth of transportation projects every year. What makes sense to engineers and experts doesn’t always transmit clearly to the general public. My job is to research, understand, translate and respond. Often times, this can go from 0 to 100 within minutes or hours. I love the challenge. And perhaps I’ve spin-doctored myself, but I like to think that I’m contributing to a more transparent and accountable government when I provide thorough and thoughtful media interviews.

A sampling: