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Nov. 28, 2002, Gazette

Ross Klein rides the wave of the media tide pool
Promoting research

By Deborah Inkpen

Dr. Ross Klein

Dr. Ross Klein is planning to take a well-deserved vacation from the hectic pace he has been keeping over the last few months. Dr. Klein, a professor in Memorial’s Department of Social Work, has been doing a media blitz of the North American circuit to promote his latest publication, Cruise Ship Blues; The Underside of the Cruise Industry, and to raise public awareness about the environmental and social pitfalls of the cruise ship industry.

The professor has been recognized as an expert, critic and somewhat of a celebrity on the cruise industry. He has television, radio and newspaper interviews lined up well into 2003. Dr. Klein’s book starts with the question, “Is the industry socially and environmentally sustainable?” and argues through its analysis that, in its present state, it is neither.

Over the past few weeks, Dr. Klein has been a guest on Vicki Gabereau, The Bill Good Show, As It Happens and The Tom Pope Show in Washington, D.C. He has also been featured in the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, the Vancouver Sun and Shared Vision magazine to name a few. As well, he has received interest from Inside Edition and the Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Klein said that his level of comfort with the media developed over time and because he is talking about something he knows so well, it goes so much more smoothly. While Dr. Klein has a publicist from his publisher working on setting up interviews, he feels anything that is going to happen, he has to make happen. “Media doesn’t come to you; you’ve got to let them know you’re there.”

A spin-off benefit from Dr. Klein’s media tour has been recognition for Memorial. “The degree to which Memorial University is getting visibility is just amazing,” he said. “Every interview I do it’s always ‘Professor Ross Klein from Memorial.’”

Dr. Klein credits his ease in the spotlight from being open to criticism and looking for ways to refine his “on-air” persona. He always asks for critical feedback from publicists. “As hard as it to watch oneself, I think that it’s important, as you are your own worst critic, to try to pick up on the things that you’re doing,” explained Dr. Klein. “It’s also good to be aware that a listener’s attention span, whether television or radio, is 30-40 seconds. If your sentence or thought goes much longer than that you’re going to lose them. So really thinking in terms of very succinct, clear statements is beneficial. Then if your words are used as a sound bite, they’ve got a coherent statement, and it allows the interviewer to direct you where they want to go as opposed to where you’re not going.”

Dr. Klein says watching or listening to yourself can be a valuable tool.

“Something which I’ve picked up on is the degree to which people talk with their hands, and when they do that on a television show it’s distracting from the message. So, I decided to sit on my hands to avoid that distraction. I may look a bit more rigid but it comes across as a clearer message.”

Dr. Klein says that doing these media interviews is a “motivator” for continuing on with his research.

“It’s hard not to get excited,” Dr. Klein cautioned, “but one has to keep a realistic view. As quick as all this happens, it can also disappear. It’s a matter of not getting too self-congratulatory or narcissistic, but I think the idea of it is riding the wave as its happening and enjoying it.”

Dr. Klein said he can see many benefits of getting his message on the industry out to the public. “Already I’m seeing the public education about this issue, I’m having an impact. I am bringing to the surface a lot of things people don’t know but also a lot of things people do know. I’m validating their perception. I found this out from doing radio call-in shows.”

There’s been a direct impact on Dr. Klein’s book sales as well, “My book is selling so quickly my publisher told me that they are ready to do the second printing. It’s selling faster than they ever expected. That will in turn make another book much easier to sell.”

Dr. Klein also feels that the media interest has allowed for contacts he might never otherwise had the chance to make. In February he will be embarking on a media and lecture tour sponsored by Oceana, a Washington-based environmental organization. The group became interested in his research after learning about his work through the media and from other environmental groups.

The next step for Dr. Klein will be to impact the industry directly.

“As the industry realizes that the public is aware of some of the worker and environmental issues, they are going to be doing some things to improve their image.” “Hopefully, that will lead to sincere and real kinds of behaviour changes.”