When a Reporter Calls

If a reporter simply wants your expert perspective on an issue, feel free to take the call! But remember:

  • Everything you say is on the record.
  • Student and employee privacy must be respected. It's the law
  • You can always contact media relations for assistance.
  • During an emergency, you should contact media relations immediately.

The following tips are courtesy of UC Berkeley Media Relations, and certainly apply to SJSU.

Gather basic details

  • Write down the reporter's name, media outlet, phone number and story deadline.
  • Ask what the story will be about and how the interview will be used.
  • If TV or radio is calling, inquire about the interview format (live, taped, etc.).
  • If you're the appropriate expert but aren't prepared to talk, set a later time, but respect the reporter's deadline. Even 15 minutes will help you get ready.
  • If you're not the best expert, refer the reporter to someone who is, or contact media relations.

Prepare for the interview

  • Take a few minutes to write down the brief message(s) you want to convey.
  • Avoid technical jargon, use lay terms.
  • Make sure your points are clear and succinct.
  • Be ready to support your message with a few examples and facts.
  • Keep in mind what the public needs to know, and how the topic impacts people's lives
  • Anticipate tough questions the reporter might ask.
  • Practice delivering your message(s).

Speak with authority, clarity, energy

  • Offer brief background on the subject at hand if the reporter seems to need it.
  • Assume everything you say is on the record, from the time you meet or talk with the reporter until he or she leaves the room or hangs up.
  • Speak with authority and energy, particularly for TV or radio interviews.
  • State your position in positive terms, even if a reporter's questions turn negative or sound loaded.
  • If the reporter's questions veer off track, politely steer the interview back to your message(s).
  • If you're not sure the reporter understood your main points, ask him or her to repeat them.

During an emergency

During an emergency when safety is at stake, reporter inquiries should be directed immediately to media relations, which coordinates all outgoing communication with the University Police Department and Emergency Operations Center. We seek to speak with one voice to reduce confusion. Learn more about how SJSU would communicate with you during an emergency.