A reporter with experience writing for daily and weekly newspapers, freelancing for magazines and publishing a news blog provides tips on how to deal effectively with the media.
I can’t speak for all journalists on how to deal effectively with the media. These tips are based on my preferences and experience and what is reasonable for any person to expect when they are dealing with a media representative.
When you go to cover a news story it’s reasonable to expect, and you must be prepared to deal with, chaos. Researching a feature story, when you arrange interviews in advance, it should not be difficult to apply a sense of order.
1. Understand this, first and foremost. Any writer who tells you they do not take a point of view when reporting a story, or writing any type of article, is either fooling himself or herself or is lying.
2. If there’s a story you want to get out, don’t limit the story to one media outlet. If a reporter is willing to talk to you about the story you want told, talk to them. I’ve had someone call me to do a story, then when they were called by a larger publication put me off. Later, when the larger publication didn’t want to report the story they not only came back to me, they badgered me and pressured me to make it my top priority.
3. Don’t jerk around a journalist whether they are working on a news story or a feature article. That won’t score you any points or personal consideration when you want to get a story out or have your viewpoint well represented.
4. When a journalist makes arrangements with you on how they want to handle an interview and you agree, don’t change the arrangements when they show up to do the interview.
5. It’s important to understand, as you are a human being with preferences a writer is a human being with preferences. If the writer conveys to you a certain approach that works best to obtain the best information it will be to your benefit to be as accommodating as possible if it’s a story you want to see written.
6. If you do not agree with what the writer has requested when you are arranging the interview say so at that time. Do not have the writer come to the interview then spring something on them they are not expecting.
7. If more than one person is being interviewed for a story and the journalist says I want to interview one person at a time, it’s safest to believe that the writer wants one person to sit and be interviewed, then to have the next person come to be interviewed. That doesn’t mean the second person sits in on the interview, even if they are silent, to then be interviewed while the second person sits. Two people sitting at the table equals two people being interviewed at one time.
8. If you agree to an interview, be prepared to talk openly and honestly and to give information fully. Never give this answer, “That’s inconsequential.” The journalist determines what questions to ask, collects the information they feel could be useful and chooses what material to put in the article. “No comment,” is reasonable and something any writer knows they have to be willing to accept. “That’s inconsequential,” to me, is insulting.
9. If you tell a reporter you want something to be off the record and they do not turn off their tape recorder and/or stop taking notes believe what you are saying is on the record. Off the record means off the record; the tape recorder should be turned off, if they’re using one, and the journalist should not be taking notes.
10. Don’t ask if you can read the article before it goes to press unless you are paying the writer to do the article. It’s unreasonable to believe that you have any any say in how the story is written. Second, a reporter doesn’t know what an editor is going to do to the story they’ve submitted.