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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

How to talk to a reporter (how to be a quotable 'source')


After this first excellent section for scientists are links to advice for other disciplines.


For scientists speaking to reporters:

These four sets of savvy tips from SciLine are excellent and, along with the realistic subtips, are easily transferable to non-science interviews. Click on the sources to get all the points and sub-points.
Five tips for scientists speaking to reporters (SciLine, American Association for the Advancement of Science)
    1. Write down 3 points you want to make.
    3. If you disagree with the premise of a question, say so. It’s not rude to say...
    5. Remember these DOs and DON’Ts.
Five tips for scientists handling media requests (SciLine, AAAS)
    1. Ask the right questions.
    2. Triage your interview opportunities.
    4. Keep in mind that this is a live video briefing.
Five tips for media briefing panelists (SciLine, AAAS)
    1. Develop your remarks around 2-3 key points you want to convey—then practice.
    2. Put your science into relevant context.
Five tips for boot camp speakers (SciLine, AAAS)
    2. Keep slides and visuals straightforward.
    3. Tailor your remarks for an audience of curious, attentive, non-specialty reporters.   

    4. Keep in mind that all presentations, Q&A, and informal discussions are on the record.


 As journalist Liz Scherer advises:

• Approach your interviews as if they are conversations. The best conversations are the ones where you, the source, provide little kernels of information that ultimately enhance the story, even if the reporter's questions don't specifically address that topic.

• Think about your answers as telling a story rather than simply providing context around data points or findings.


The Terms You Need to Know Before You Talk to Journalists (David Gerzof Richard, Zen Business) What is an exclusive? What is an embargo? The difference between 'on the record' and 'off the record'. Between 'on background' and 'deep background'. And remember, 'no comment' seems to imply 'guilty'.

Guidelines for Talking to the Media (Harvard Innovation Labs)
---Be concise (Get to the point quickly and stay there.)
---Respond quickly to reporters; they work on tight deadlines.
---Lead with your key points.
---Make your key points over and over.
---Make your key points almost regardless of the questions asked.
---'Juicy' or sensational comments WILL find their way into a story. Etc.

How to Meet the Press (Chester Burger, Harvard Business Review, 1975) Good introductory discussion (including how not to get your company into trouble with dumb statements) and then important points, including:
---1. Talk from the viewpoint of the public’s interest, not the company’s.
---3. If you do not want some statement quoted, do not make it. Corporate spokesmen should avoid “off-the-record” statements. There is no such thing as “off-the-record.”
---4. State the most important fact at the beginning.

How to Talk to a Journalist (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)
13 Tips for Academics on How to Talk to Journalists ( Dwight Knell, The Media Manipulation Casebook)
How to Talk to Reporters (Scholars Strategy Network)
10 Tips on Speaking with the Media (BU Public Relations)

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