Get basic information. Find out the reporterís name, affiliation, contact number and how you can help.
Are you the best person to respond to these questions? Donít be reluctant to share basic factual information within your area of expertise. If the discussion moves into more subjective areas, you might want to refer the call to your supervisor or the WSU News.
Deadlines and preparation time. Most reporters will be working on a specific deadline. Ask what it is and try to respect it. But donít be rushed into an interview for which you are not prepared. Tell the reporter you will call back. Collect your thoughts, find the facts, then do the interview.
Have a message. Identify two or three points that you want to stress. Stick with a focused message. Avoid hypothetical or conjectural questions. It is acceptable to tell a reporter that youíre prepared to speak to the relevant facts but feel that it would be inappropriate to speculate.
Anticipate tough questions. Ask yourself whether hard questions might be posed about the issue and rehearse your answers (the News can assist you). If they are not questions you'd prefer to respond to, address them directly, but briefly, and move on to what you want to say.
Conflict is news; routine isn't. Reporters often frame their questions to bring out the conflict in a story. State your position in positive terms. You needn't repeat negative words in the reporter's question. In fact, doing so in an interview that will be edited will often give the impression that the choice of words was yours.
Use simple language, rather than technical terms or jargon, and speak in short sentences.
Be brief. Newspaper reporters can take more time in interviews and present more information than can radio and TV reporters. Eight seconds is the average length of a TV ďsoundbite.Ē
Be friendly. But don't be lulled into flippancy or forced humor. Again, assume everything you say to a reporter (even in a social situation) may appear in a story.
Stick to the facts. Donít pass along hearsay and gossip. Say what you know and be candid in acknowledging what you donít Try to direct the reporter to a better source or to the WSU News if the interview progresses to issues you arenít directly familiar with.
Don't expect a reporter to show you a story before publication. Some may, but many wonít, and some may even find the request offensive. If you fear a point has not been properly understood, ask the reporter if what you said was understandable. Many will respond by repeating the information back to you. Offer to make yourself available for a follow-up phone call if the reporter finds that additional clarification or information is needed.
Try not to overreact if you're misquoted. If you feel a need to set the record straight, contact the reporter you spoke with rather than an editor. But don't insist on a correction or a retraction, especially if the error is minor or the information is simply expressed in a way that you would not have chosen. Remember that the vast majority of errors and misquotes are inadvertent. If you believe you have a major grievance with a reporter, contact the WSU News.
Above all, be honest. In some cases, the truth may hurt, but being misleading can be deadly.
If you don't know the answer, just say so. We all want to appear helpful and knowledgeable, but attempting to give an answer when you donít really have one can prove far more embarrassing and troublesome than simply saying ďI donít really have the answer to that question.Ē
If you have a hard time understanding a question, get clarification. Donít hesitate to ask the reporter to repeat a question or expand on one until you fully understand the meaning. Reporters are often called upon to report on issues they are unfamiliar with. If you find the question betrays a lack of understanding, try to respond in a way that minimizes any potential embarrassment to the reporter, such as saying something like ďThis can be a very complicated issue for anyone who isnít familiar with it and misunderstandings are common. I think it might be helpful if I backtrack for a moment and explainÖĒ
Remember that you will be identified with WSU. In fact, you want the reporter to stress your WSU affiliation. But keep in mind that your comments will reflect on the university. If you feel you need to express personal opinions to a reporter, it is a good practice to identify them as such.