This guide is aimed at helping the SUNY Potsdam community deal with reporter queries and media requests. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Public Affairs at (315) 267-2114.
The needs of journalists vary depending on their medium and their audience—and, of course, depending on the story.
Newspaper reporters can deal with interviews in a variety of ways. Sometimes they prefer to come on campus to speak in person along with a photographer, but often they can conduct an interview over the phone. Sometimes, they will simply ask questions via e-mail. Often, they will simply write down or type your responses in shorthand as you speak, but sometimes will record you and transcribe the interview. Be careful to speak slowly and clearly for these reasons.
Radio journalists often prefer to conduct in-person interviews in order to get better sound quality, but they can also conduct interviews over the phone. Because they have tight time constraints, your interview will often be condensed down into a short “sound bite.” Be aware of this as you prepare.
Television reporters almost always prefer to tape an in-person interview. They will often discuss the issue with you beforehand, and then tape the question-and-answer session to be edited later. They also must get multiple visual elements to include with their stories, so be prepared to be videotaped not only speaking, but sometimes going about your job as well. Once again, only a short sound bite from your interview may be used.
It’s best to treat every reporter request as if they are working on a daily deadline—because this is often the case. Sometimes journalists have more time to work on a non-time sensitive piece, but you should still work to help them sooner rather than later. The more helpful you are, the more you will earn their respect.
You can ask for some time to prepare for an interview, and ask the journalist exactly what information they seek. Use this chance to prepare your response and message.
You always have the right to decline an interview if you don’t have an answer or feel the request is unreasonable. If you grant an interview to one media outlet, it is only appropriate for you to speak to others who wish to follow up on the same topic. If you are tempted to decline an interview because you are too busy, you must inform the Office of Public Affairs so that we can work to maintain a good working relationship with the reporter and try to help him or her ourselves.
First and foremost, consider the audience. In order to convey your story best, avoid any academic jargon and useless background information and speak to a layperson. Imagine you’re talking to an aunt or uncle who has no idea about the topic. Don’t be afraid to ask the journalist if he or she understands a point before continuing.
Listen to the question
Bridge with a transitional phrase
Deliver your message! Then, listen to the next question and begin again…
If there was an inaccuracy in the story, contact our office to discuss this. We may work with the paper to request a correction if it is warranted. Public Affairs maintains news clippings, and may send around e-mails to administrators noting the piece that you were featured in.