Chris Farley & How to Avoid the Media Mistakes I Made

Most of the time, you don’t know when your media opportunity is coming. Here’s an inside look at the media mistakes I made, to help you prepare for your own moment in the spotlight.


Comedian and actor, Chris Farley, died 20-years ago. He was a superstar in the 90s at the time I was in college. He died after a long battle with addiction. He was only thirty-three and was already the greatest physical comedian of my generation. He didn’t survive — but he left behind many stories. This is mine.

“Kathryn! You’re on TV… call me!”

“Kathryn, I just saw you on E!”

“Kathryn! I didn’t know you dated….. Chris Farley?!?”

Ten messages on my answering machine.

It was 1999… and I was just months out of college and at my first full-time TV job.

I heard the messages right after walking in the door after producing the news all night at WCIA in Champaign, Illinois. I was so tired, I had to listen to them again to understand what was going on. Then I called someone to get the scoop.

The “E! True Hollywood Story” on Chris Farley premiered the night before. It described Chris’ time at Saturday Night Live, at Marquette University, his drug abuse…  and my picture came up in the show over and over. It was not flattering. Because of how I looked… and what the announcer track was saying while my pictures were coming up. Here’s a clip.

Chris Farley died during my senior year of college. The dean of my college called me over Christmas break and asked me to head back to school early so I could plan the memorial Mass at Marquette University. I was the president of my college and Chris went to Marquette.

The year prior, Chris came back to campus to accept an award.  This is also the last time I wore a dress this low-cut. THIS is the event where my pictures were taken along with dozens of other students with Chris. After Chris died, producers from E! went to Marquette to collect pictures. The dean handed them over… and the producers didn’t keep track — so editors used pictures of me in places that the track was not referring to me. I clearly did not date Chris, nor was I part of his downward spiral into drinking… as the E! story said.

On the day of the memorial Mass — I had Chris’ family there, bagpipers and Pat Finn to give the eulogy. (You’ve probably seen Pat in The Middle, Friends and Seinfeld… he’s great.) His eulogy was hilarious and loving. He told stories that illustrated Chris as a student… to us, a chapel full of students. I wish I had video of it in its entirety. He also told stories of how Chris would make regular trips to the Joan of Arc chapel on campus to pray… talk to God… and just be alone.

After the service, the local stations wanted to interview me.

I didn’t even think about this possibility.

I was unprepared. (I know much better now… I was 20 then.)

As a young broadcast journalism student who wanted to be a reporter (as I thought at the time)… I blew my chance. I gave the all-time lamest soundbite. It’s here if you want to see it:

Between the low-cut dress at the awards event the year before and the soundbite at the service — these are the first two mistakes I made when it comes to media and public speaking.

But I learned a lot.

  1. When the story on E! aired, I was a young TV producer. This taught me to be very careful when writing to pictures and video. Make sure the track matches the visuals. A mistake can hurt someone’s reputation.
  2. Be ready for anything.
  3. Watch the makeup. Don’t let it be a distraction.
  4. Dress how you would want to be portrayed in pictures or on video — especially if you’re going to a high-profile event. You never know who may see the picture.
  5. Have your elevator speech ready. What will you say if the media shows up? How will you answer if someone at that wedding asks you what you do, or why you’re “in between jobs,” or what you’re looking for in your next role? What will you say when they ask you what your company does? Remember — quick responses that stick with your audience.
I coach clients so they’re ready when their opportunity comes.
Most times – you don’t even know your opportunity’s coming.
You need to be ready now.

Kathryn Janicek | Media Coach, Producer, Public Speaking Trainer
Kathryn Janicek is a three-time Emmy Award-winning television producer with 20 years of experience working in newsrooms across the country. Kathryn coached talent, producers, and writers before switching her focus on helping entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Now, based in her home city of Chicago, she is a much sought-after media coach and public speaking trainer who will help you produce the best YOU. Click HERE now to book a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Kathryn!

The story of a big potty, accents and communicating

In the art of communication, it’s not just what we say, but how we say it that can determine whether or not we are reaching our audience. In this lesson: the story of a big potty, accents, and communicating.


We moved to Massachusetts when I was in second grade.

This was the first of the moves that would take me to five new regions of the country by the time I was a junior in high school.

When my mom and dad were house hunting in Massachusetts, they looked at several areas… and narrowed in on Worcester. When the realtor was showing Mom and Dad the house we ended up living in for about a year — my mom kept hearing the realtor say she could have a big potty in the house. The realtor was seriously standing in the middle of the living room telling my parents about this BIG POTTY they could have…

After she said it a few times, my mom realized the oh so Massachusetts realtor was actually saying that my mom could have a big PAHTY (party) in this new house.

Boston accents are wicked cool.

I remembered the story while working in Boston this week. My mom tells me I absorbed that Massachusetts accent pretty quickly. I wish we had video of me walking around TAAHking like that as a 7-year old.

I’ve always been quick to pick speaking styles up. For better or worse. It took me FOREVER to get rid of the Minnesohta accent I adopted when I worked at a TV station there over 10 years ago.

The problem with an accent can be when it creates a communications issue. While it’s so individual and a part of who you are… it can stop you from landing a job or getting your soundbite in a TV story if they feel the audience won’t understand your message.

Many of my clients work with me to make sure they can communicate better with or without an accent.

I love accents. I love listening to how people form their words and what they emphasize in a sentence. Regional accents are a lesson in our country’s history.

Speaking of history lessons… have you had a tour of Fenway Park in Boston?

I toured the park yesterday. Head on over to my Facebook page for a tour of the park in the SNOW, the locker rooms and some history of the park.

Side note: when people ask me if moving around so much as a child was terrible, I tell them that without all those moves — I wouldn’t know so many parts of the country, have friends across the U.S. (and world) and wouldn’t have the regional U.S. knowledge I have. An example: While working the day breaking news came into our Memphis newsroom about the death of six firefighters — I’m quite sure my anchors were two of the only TV anchors in the nation who pronounced Worcester the right way. I wouldn’t have known that without all the moves as a kid.


Kathryn Janicek | Media Coach, Producer, Public Speaking Trainer
Kathryn Janicek is a three-time Emmy Award-winning television producer with 20 years of experience working in newsrooms across the country. Kathryn coached talent, producers, and writers before switching her focus on helping entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Now, based in her home city of Chicago, she is a much sought-after media coach and public speaking trainer who will help you produce the best YOU. Click HERE now to book a complimentary 30-minute consultation with Kathryn!