Working with the media can be beneficial, especially when offering subject matter expertise. It can raise awareness of the quality of research, scholarship and teaching at Wheaton, and can enhance a faculty member’s reputation, as well as the reputation of the College.
Wheaton’s Media Relations office is available to assist faculty in their interactions with reporters on behalf of the College. While we often facilitate connections between reporters and faculty, other times you may receive a call or an email directly. Here are a few guidelines to assist you.
What should you do if a reporter calls or emails?
- Ask for the reporter’s name, phone number and the media organization he or she represents. If you’re not familiar with the media organization, ask for more information, or refer them to Media Relations. We can help assess the outlet and the request.
- Ask for the reporter’s deadline: When is the latest possible time he or she needs the interview? Keep in mind that reporters often operate on tight deadlines, and may need your comments on the same day they reach out to you.
- Ask for the topic of the interview, the angle of the story and some sample questions. If you need time to collect your thoughts and the reporter’s deadline allows, offer to call back later at a specific time. You can also ask if an e-mailed response would be useful.
- If you cannot accommodate the reporter’s request, refer them to Media Relations. We may be able to help them find another source.
- If a reporter calls at a time when you are unprepared, reschedule the interview for a time when you feel comfortable. If you need guidance, call Media Relations.
- If a reporter asks to come interview you in person, or wishes to take photos or video footage on campus, contact Media Relations. The College’s Media, Brand and Photography Guidelines require that reporters or producers who wish to come to campus first gain permission from our office.
- Before the interview, think of two to three main points you would like to make about your subject. Anticipate questions the reporter might ask and think through potential responses. If you have time and think it might be helpful, gather facts, figures and anecdotes to support your points.
During Your Interview
- If you are being interviewed by phone, make sure you know whether or not you are being recorded. If you’re not certain, you should ask.
- Begin at a basic level. Avoid academic or technical jargon; explain special terms if you must use them. Use analogies, descriptive terms and active verbs to make your interview colorful. Be confident, but also be conversational.
- Don’t overestimate a reporter’s knowledge of your subject. When a reporter bases a question on information you believe is incorrect, do not hesitate to set the record straight. Offer background information where necessary.
- If your interview is being recorded for broadcast, be brief. The shorter your comments, the less likely they are to be edited down. If the interview is live, avoid rambling. Stick to your main points (repeating them if necessary) and do not allow yourself to get drawn off-topic.
- Speak in complete thoughts. The reporter’s question will be edited out and your response should stand on its own. Pause briefly before answering. Then, try to start your answer by repeating the essence of the question. This helps the reporter get a “clean” sound bite and also has the added benefit of allowing you time to think over your answer. In edited interviews, it’s okay to stop and start over again if you don’t like the way you worded your answer.
- If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification rather than talking around it. If you do not have the answer, say so. Tell the reporter where to find the information, if possible.
- If you cannot answer a question or choose not to, explain briefly. For example, “I can’t answer that because I haven’t seen the research paper you are referencing.”
- Understand that you will not have the chance to review a reporter’s story before it appears. But you can ask the reporter to read your quotes back to you, or to check facts with you. It is best to make this request before the interview.
- Avoid saying things “off the record.” Reporters and sources often understand these terms differently. If you don’t want to read it in the news, don’t say it. “The mic is always on,” literally and figuratively.
- Reporters’ schedules are determined by the news of the day. Don’t be offended if an interview gets canceled or rescheduled because a more urgent story arises.
Tips for Radio and TV Interviews
- Make sure you know whether the interview is live, or whether it will be taped, edited, and broadcast later. Be ready to think on your feet for a live interview.
- For television interviews, wear solid clothing. Avoid large, jangling or distracting jewelry. Be sure to look in a mirror just before going on camera.
- Choose a location where you can screen out extraneous noises like the hum from heating or air conditioning units. Hold your calls, and turn off your cell phone. For radio interviews, use a landline, rather than a cell phone.
- If you’re on TV, look at the reporter, rather than at the camera. If you’re uncertain where to look, of if you are doing a satellite/Skype interview with a reporter who is in a studio, ask where you should look before the interview begins.
- Be stationary—don’t rock or swivel in your chair. Avoid nervous habits like pen tapping or leg jostling.
After the Interview
- If you think the news story might result in a reaction from the public, call Media Relations to plan on how to handle that reaction.
- Ask the reporter to identify you as being affiliated with Wheaton College. Academic titles are often too long or complex for newscasts or articles. Talk with the reporter about a title that works for both of you.
- Ask when the story will appear and pass the information along to Media Relations so we can promote and monitor the coverage.
- If you feel you misspoke or gave incorrect information, call the reporter as soon as possible. Similarly, you can also call with additional information if you forgot to make an important point. If an error appears, let the reporter or Media Relations know right away. It may be possible to correct or update the story. You will also want to prevent the incorrect information from being used as background for future stories.
Questions? Call Director of Media Relations LaTonya Taylor at 630.752.5714.