12 Tips for Working with the News Media

As a state supported organization, the administrators and faculty of Eastern Washington University have an obligation to respond to inquiries from the news media.

  1. Be prepared. Do your homework. If you're not ready, don't do the interview.
  2. Not when you're hot. Stay cool, stay positive. If you're mad, take a minute, count to 10, do what it takes to calm down; don't let a reporter get under your skin. Most importantly, remember to breath and everything will be fine!
  3. Tell the truth. It's a matter of credibility. Don't lie. You don't have to volunteer unpleasant news, but when asked directly, tell the truth.
  4. Don't speculate. If you don't know the answer, it's OK to say so. But don't guess. You can offer to find out the information and get back to the reporter in a specified time.
  5. Answer in the positive. Say what you are doing, not what you aren't doing. This is also a great chance to promote positive things the University is doing on a given topic.
  6. Bridge the question. This parallels #5. As in -- Q: "Why did the team miss so many shots tonight?" A: "We were tired from a long bus ride, but this loss will get us fired up for Saturday's game against XYZ University, when we will... etc."
  7. Answer the question you want to answer. If there's something you want to say, but you don't quite get the right question that leads you there, say what you want to say, even if it doesn't exactly answer the question asked. Politicians do this all the time -- but please do it more gracefully than they do. In fact, at the end of most interviews a reporter will ask, "Is there anything else you want to say?" Instead of saying, "No, that's about it," this is a great chance to reiterate the key message you want to make sure is heard. Many times a reporter will remember the last thing in the interview, and if what you say sticks out you will stand out! 
  8. Interruptions. Be polite, but if the reporter interrupts, ask to be able to finish your answer, then do so.
  9. It's a sound bite world. Particularly for broadcast media, say it briefly and with animation.
  10. Don't go off the record. Never, never, never. But, if you do, follow the protocol.
  11. Body language. Don't fidget, don't sway, don't swing back and forth in your chair. Look directly at the reporter. Be animated and cheerful and upbeat.
  12. Silence. When you've said what you want to say, stop talking. Don't let the reporter's silence make you uncomfortable and force you into filling the void. It's the oldest trick in the book. Wait it out.
© 2014 Eastern Washington University