BME’s Big Question #6: Fameballin’

Welcome to BME’s Big Question! In this feature, we’re going to ask a handful of the community’s best and brightest piercers, tattooists, heavy mod practitioners and shop owners for their opinion on one question or issue that’s affecting the body modification community. Many, many thanks to all of the contributors.

If you’d like to be a part of future editions, or if you have an idea for an issue or question you’d like to see addressed, please e-mail me.

This week’s topic comes from Allen Falkner:

“The media. We’ve all dealt them. How do you feel about the media? Have you had good or bad experiences? How do you decide who to talk to and who to avoid? Maybe name one of your most memorable media experiences.”

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Meg Barber
I’ve had good experiences overall with it. In previous shops I’ve worked in, there have been the usual newspaper interviews, appearances on the news and radio, etc. I’ve done scarification for one local paper for their “Beat the Winter Blahs” issue; the cover was me cutting, so that was fun and pretty cool.

Here at Venus, media is our best friend. We love the media. We have had high level celebs in the store, with paparazzi lined up outside shooting in, and we use that footage to our advantage with our Press Kit that we use as a display piece in our lobby. Instead of having portfolios and stuff sitting around, we have our Press Kit, and it really gets people talking and excited to be pierced by the same studio and piercers who have worked on their favorite celebs, and we have the media to thank for that for sure! I mean, without the media, those people aren’t really all that special.

Of course, there is always the downside of overzealous reporters trying to trace a hepatitis outbreak to the rise of tattoos and piercings in the nation, who come snooping around and spreading bad press. But in my experience, that’s few and far between these days, and not really too much of a concern, really. When something like that pops up, you write your little letter to the editor, throw some facts at them, and forget about them.

I think, to an extent, this question ties in with the Internet question as well, and Internet media is becoming more prevalent. With sites like Digg occasionally putting up tattoo- or piercing-related stories or photos, there is more exposure to our work than ever, and as long as it looks good, that’s never really a bad thing.

Oh, here’s a story. I really should let Maria Tash tell this, but it’s too funny to pass up …

Years ago, she was interviewed over the phone by CBN. She didn’t realize at the time what it was — she was thinking in her head CBS or CNN. A few weeks later, a client comes in to tell her he saw her picture on TV … on The 700 Club. She was being referred to as one of the most evil women in America, and her quotes about the beauty of piercing were all turned into pro-satanic remarks, essentially. You can never be too careful.

Steve Truitt
I’ve had good and bad experiences with the media. I’ve worked with the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel several times, and they’ve always been really easy to deal with. They didn’t try to portray us in any particular way, more like, “This is what’s going on and you should make your own opinion about it,” which is nice for a change since a lot of the stuff we do is usually portrayed in a negative, or shock value type of way.

I’ve also worked with several big budget feature films and had fairly good experiences. Most recently we did suspensions in a scene in the movie Game, which should be released this summer or fall. The people making this movie were really interested in what we were doing, they did everything they could to provide us with anything we could possibly need and make sure we were safe and comfortable, and weren’t trying to portray us as freaks or negatively in anyway in the scene.

The only time I’ve had bad experiences have been when dealing with local media, like news stations. We were interviewed about suspension for a news segment several years back. They asked questions about the popularity of suspension, the safety issues, possible complications, why people did it, etc. When the piece aired on the news a few days later they had changed all the questions being asked to be about tongue splitting and surgical modifications, and chopped up our answers and rearranged things we said to fit their new questions that they never asked us. They did that to make it more shocking and to make us look really bad. After this and hearing similar stories from quite a few other people who have done interviews for the news (not just body modification related either), I stopped talking to news reporters at all and won’t deal with them again.

Tracy Baer
I’m not a tattoo artist, but I play one on TV …

Does that count as media experience?

Meg Barber
Oh whatever, you’ve been in the paper about a million times!

Tracy Baer
I have, and it’s been a double-edged sword for sure.

The news story that was filmed on Halloween, while I was dressed as a vampire, and then didn’t air until after Thanksgiving was probably the worst thing. I looked like a goth kid, and they took bits and pieces of what i said to make a paragraph that was to the editor’s liking.

It was horrible. The one thing that sticks in my mind is the question of why people get tattooed. My answer was long and drawn out — that, I believe, was my mistake. It was edited, and the only answer they played was, “People get tattoos for vanity’s sake.”

Seriously. I gave them at least 10 other reasons that I could think of. So, there I was, dressed up as a vampire on the evening news, talking about how people only get tattooed for vanity’s sake. I was mortified.

I think I’ve learned from my mistake on that one, though.

In more recent media coverage, I’ve had better luck. The last few were positive. The interviews have been upbeat, educational, and well rounded, as well as beneficial to my amount of business and new clients. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that body modification is more widely accepted, or that the person interviewing was more open to the idea of tattooing as a legitimate career.

Either way, I feel like the horror stories in the news are being overshadowed by the positive ones. That being said, there’s definitely a place for the horror stories. Individuals who take this industry for a place to make a quick buck need to be brought to everyone’s attention.

Meg Barber
I agree. The bad side is that the shows that go over the dangers never point the finger at the troublemakers directly. No investigative reporting happenin’, you know? And it should happen: send the undercover person in the shady shops with the bad reps to see what’s really up. It could really shed some light on those places, encouraging people to make smarter choices.

Allen Falkner
I think everyone agrees on the most important point. Depending on how the media wants to spin the story you can be presented as an articulate professional or you can be edited to sound like a fool and a hack.

It’s been my experience that the media that focuses on documentation pieces, National Geographic, The Learning Channel, Discovery Channel, etc. tend to tell the story in such a way that the subjects are shown in a positive light. Granted, there is normally some added sensationalism infused into the story, but that’s what sells, right? However, even if the story is given a commercial flair, these production companies know better than to make people look bad. These kinds of pieces are built on mutual respect and trust. If they violate that, then their chances of working with that culture might be virtually impossible in the future.

Now when it comes to other types of media that are simply doing a one-off piece, the person being interviewed must be more careful. I’ve been burned more than once by agreeing to something without having all the facts. Once I had a live debate on TV and it was obvious, about 30 seconds in, that the topic wasn’t about piercing. It was a witch-hunt and yours truly was the witch. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

I guess my advice would be to do your research. Find out as much as possible about the person and/or company doing the interview. In general, writers and production companies stick to a specific style. If you can get your hands on some of their previous work, you should be able to get a sense of what direction they might take it, and ultimately how they could portray you.

The old saying is, “Any publicity is good publicity.” But, when you’ve had little to no exposure, bad publicity can really hurt you in the long run.

What do you think? Let’s hear it in the comments.

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14 thoughts on “BME’s Big Question #6: Fameballin’

  1. Pingback: BME: Tattoo, Piercing and Body Modification News » ModBlog » New Article Posted! (BME’s Big Question)

  2. this question hits very close to home for me!

    I had a friend in the local college newspaper who asked to do a piece with me in it because of my tattoos. She asked me a bunch of very generic questions, how much did they cost, what do they mean, etc. However, she got lazy, and instead of writing the article herself, she handed my answers over to her editor, who rearranged everything to make me look horrible. I’m pretty sure the message of the article went a little something like, “you better hope you like your tattoos, because they cost tons and tons of money!” I’m not kidding, the amount I said I had spent for my ink was brought up 3 times in a tiny little article! Ugh! Totally missed the point!

  3. gd articule for sum reason i find that pic of meg really ugly lol

    i just dotn like girls iwth dark eyes thou steve still looks pimpin thou

  4. thx for useful experiences!
    it could really save us from a lot of mistakes.. coz many ppl will b glad to take apartment in any press event, especially on TV, and won’t notice what the role will they play there..

  5. carl baer has accepted the position of media liason, and now works full time for cookies.

  6. If it’s a print article I usually ask for an advance copy of it to read over it before it goes to print. Most of the writers have been very willing to do so. It is one of my stipulations now for doing interviews.Then, at least, I have a bit of content control. I have only been on the news a couple of times and the stories were fairly well done so I can’t complain there.

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