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Tips for Working With Reporters

  • Always tell the truth. Never lie to a reporter—it will come back to haunt you.
  • If you don’t know the answer, say so. Offer to get the answer, and then make sure to follow up.
  • Never say “No comment.” It implies that you are trying to hide something. You can decline to answer a question, but you must give a plausible reason, such as “That information would violate the patient’s privacy.”
  • Speak plainly. Most journalists are generalists, so they often learn about issues on the job. Avoid jargon and start with the basics, bringing reporters along. They will appreciate not being made to feel stupid, and their reporting will be more accurate.
  • Do not argue with reporters. Remember that in the end, they are the ones writing the stories, so they will always have the last word on a subject (and you probably won’t look good).
  • Never go “off the record.” A reporter is never off duty, so anything you say could appear in print or on the air. Never say anything within a reporter’s earshot that you wouldn't want to see on the front page, even after an interview is “finished.”
  • Never take it personally. If you do run into conflict with reporters, keep it in perspective and don’t take it personally. Never allow professional disagreements to turn into personal arguments or grudges.
  • Build working relationships with reporters. If you routinely respond to reporters’ inquiries and requests for information, you will have better relations with them when you need their help. Get to know the local media prior to emergencies—it may help you work better with them during more stressful times.

The FAQ Sheet about working with the media gives more information about dealing with reporters.

Take Your Best Guess

A local reporter is known for getting his facts wrong and for quoting sources out of context. He has scheduled a phone interview with you for a story he is writing about a possible water contamination problem in the public schools. You want to make sure the correct facts get out to the public. Taking your best guess, should you…

The correct answer is A.

Email a fact sheet or other relevant materials to provide a resource and increase the likelihood that the accurate information reaches the public.