Speaking with Reporters

Love ’em or hate ’em, journalists and reporters play an important role in sharing the good work we do at WSU with industry and government stakeholders, alumni and donors, and, of course, the general public.

10 Tips for Interview Success

Respond to reporters promptly. They’re often on deadline.

If your schedule is booked, ask the reporter about his/her deadline to see if you can work out a mutually beneficial time to meet.

Approach reporters and photographers with respect and courtesy.

Be polite. They are professionals doing their job and the Golden Rule still applies. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a reporter’s contact information, what publication or outlet they are working for, and when they anticipate publishing the story—but don’t to ask to see a draft.

Provide information that is accurate, concise, timely, and truthful.

Keep in mind you are a representative of your unit, the college, and Washington State University.

Consider the reporter’s audience.

In general, avoid specialist language and scientific terms used in your research or presentation. Reporters have limited time and space to tell the story. They must produce where you might muse.  Think about how your message might condense into bullet points and let the reporter follow up with appropriate questions. Just before the interview ends, remind the reporter of what you think is your main point.

If you’re interviewed about a sensitive topic, answer questions honestly.

Choose your words carefully to minimize any misinterpretation.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, offer to find out.

Provide the correct information to the reporter as quickly as possible.

Never go “off the record.” Never.

There is really no such thing. You should be comfortable seeing everything you say printed in bold letters on the front page.

Be content with the fact that whatever you say will appear briefly, if at all, and that it will be “hopelessly” simplified.

In journalism, 750 words mean 750 on the nose — not 750-ish. Radio spots seldom exceed a few minutes and TV camera time is much shorter. Don’t interpret cursory reporting (or not being quoted) as being disrespected. Good reporters always collect more than they can possibly use — just as you do when you conduct research. And don’t assume the reporter has total control over what gets used; very few do. Above all, don’t be surprised when the reporter uses something you feel is less relevant. Just as you seek a good “hook” in a classroom lesson, so do reporters in their stories.

Don’t complain unless you’ve been seriously misrepresented.

Complaining pretty much guarantees you’ll never be a source again. It is acceptable to contact the reporter regarding factual errors, but do so politely and, if it really matters, ask if the reporter could note the change. Don’t sweat it unless what was published is really, really wrong. If you have truly been misrepresented, contact the editor or director instead of the reporter. Consider working through WSU News as they might have connection with the publication. Don’t rant, though, or you won’t be taken seriously by anyone.

Finally, thank the media when they have done a good job.

A thank you goes a long way and you never know when your field of study might align with a future assignment.

Adapted from

5 Ways To Ensure A Newsworthy PR Pitch” , Marc Cowlin, Meltwater Public Relations Blog, February 26, 2014.
Dealing With the Press”, Inside Higher Ed, November 5, 2014
Ten Tips for Working With Reporters”, University of Louisiana at Lafayette