What is News?
Becoming a Media Expert
Capitalizing on Media Opportunities
Guidelines for Managing the Interviews
Quick Tips for Successful Interviews
Behind the Scenes: On-campus Interviews, Emergencies, Privacy Issues
Generating an Audience for Your Conference
A story’s newsworthiness is determined by the reporter and the news outlet for which he or she works. Reporters tend to turn to universities for stories:
DePaul’s News and Information Bureau (NIB) team works to assist reporters on all types of requests.
Elements of Newsworthiness
Reporters expect the NIB staff to be “news gatekeepers” who pitch only the most newsworthy stories. These could include conflict and controversy, trends, and stories that are timely because they relate to current events. These stories may have a wide societal impact, human interest or involve very large sums of money. They could be about something unusual or rare; they might highlight a discovery or represent a major first.
Spotting a Trend Story
Journalists strive to identify and write about trends before anyone else. Analysis of education coverage shows that trends get ink.
Trends can sprout from many sources, including research. A new statistical analysis may identify a previously unrecognized movement in society. Trend stories can also spring from your own observations, particularly as you see new ways that students do traditional things.
To be newsworthy, DePaul needs to be on the front end of a trend or report a fresh angle on a current trend. Look for a trend with enough staying power to be worth your time.
Pitching DePaul’s Stories
We must select carefully which stories to promote because these messages define our reputation. They alert potential students, community partners and donors to DePaul’s distinctive characteristics and are a factor in their decisions to affiliate with us.
The key is to identify the best DePaul stories from the dozens of possibilities at any given time and match them with the right reporter in the most suitable medium when that reporter is most likely open to a particular topic.
As a member of DePaul’s faculty you may be called upon by reporters to provide insight, analysis, background or informed reaction to issues. Court decisions, government initiatives, political activities and international affairs commonly prompt the need for expert commentary from professors who have the credentials and authoritative point of view reporters seek to add weight to their stories.
If you are well-versed in the general area of the inquiry and are able to explain an issue’s significant points to a reporter, you will likely be chosen to be a part of the story.
In addition to news experts, reporters tap experts for feature stories and may ask a professor to explain little-known facts, ideas or histories about topics only someone with an intricate knowledge of the field would know.
Are You in DePaul’s Experts Guide?
The single most effective way DePaul makes members of the media aware of our experts is through our award-winning DePaul University Media Guide to the Experts. Reporters can scan a topic index and reach you directly through the contact information provided.
ProfNet connects reporters with a wide range of subject-matter experts. Writers from local, national and international media post queries and ask public relations people to suggest professors and other experts whom they can interview. If you match the request, a NIB staff member will contact you to solicit your thoughts on the topic and suggest you as a potential source
These informal meetings with reporters—sometimes done at their desks, though more likely done in a public place like a coffee shop—typically provide them with background or general information on one’s area of expertise. They also can help you develop a rapport with reporters.
Although these meetings are informal in nature, everything you say during them should be considered on the record. If you are interested in setting up a desk-side briefing with a reporter, please contact NIB for assistance.
If a Reporter Calls You Directly
If you are contacted directly by a reporter and you feel prepared to answer the questions, please feel free to grant an interview. Be sure to ask the reporter’s name, media affiliation and a phone number or e-mail address in case you want to clarify something later. After the interview, please alert NIB so we can track stories that feature DePaul.
If you think some preparation before the interview would be helpful, tell the reporter you need a few moments and that you will call back as soon as possible. Ask the reporter what questions will be asked so you can begin formulating answers. Feel free to call NIB for assistance. We can talk you through potential questions and help tailor your responses into quotable statements.
The Early Bird Gets the Quote
Reporters choose whoever is readily available and responds quickly. Often, reporters will request an expert from several universities and use the first qualified professor who returns their call.
As a general rule, the more accessible you are, the greater the likelihood that you will be sought by the media.
If a story is set to run in the next day’s edition or on the evening news, the story usually will run regardless of whether you’re available.
If you feel you cannot accommodate the request before the reporter’s deadline, please refer the call to NIB, which will try to find someone else who can discuss the matter in time.
Media Interviews During Non-Business Hours
The more accessible you are, the more likely you are to be sought out by the media. This is especially true during evenings and weekends because breaking news often happens during non-business hours.
If a reporter can reach you outside of regular working hours, DePaul has a better chance of appearing in the story. Home and/or cell phone numbers will not be made available to the media without your permission. If you are reached off hours at an inconvenient time, propose a more appropriate time to return the reporter's call or arrange for the reporter to call back.
Know Who is Requesting the Interview
Before you agree to a media interview, it is critical that you know who is contacting you and the nature of the media outlet.
If you are contacted directly by a reporter from a media outlet with which you are not familiar, you should ask them specifically for the full name of the publication or outlet, its phone number, where it is based, and the size and characteristics of its target audience. If you have questions about a reporter’s credentials or about a media outlet, contact NIB for assistance.
Know Your Key Points and Anticipate Questions
Before you enter into an interview, think through the key points you want to make in the interview. If you anticipate awkward or complex questions arising in an interview, develop potential answers beforehand.
At the end of an interview, most reporters will offer you the chance to make any points they neglected to touch upon. If they do not, you should interject any point that is critical to your overall perspective.
Many reporters need “sound bites” for their stories. Try to state your thoughts in complete, self-contained sentences rather than saying “yes” or “no” to their questions. Be sure to answer their questions completely, but succinctly.
Reporters are most likely to use colorful, lively quotes. For example, “My research is a treasure hunt that leads me down unexpected paths” vs. “I never know where my research will end up.” Similarly, try to speak in active rather than passive voice: “My students and I polled 100 people” vs. “One hundred people were polled by my students and me.”
Never guess at answers to questions or speculate. In general, you should avoid answering hypothetical questions.
Don’t Let Reporters Put Words in Your Mouth
Reporters often ask leading questions that you may parrot back unconsciously. For example, a reporter covering a debate may ask, “Isn’t this exciting?” to which the interviewee may say “Yes” or even “Yes, it’s exciting.” The reporter then says “DePaul Professor John Doe called the debate exciting.” But what Professor Doe meant was the protest outside was exciting, or the audience reaction was exciting, or, if he paused to come up with his own word, may have indicated the debate was unusual or an element was unexpected.
It is best to avoid using technical terminology when doing interviews.
“Off the Record”
The term “off the record” means something different to everyone. It is best not to say anything to a reporter that you would not want to see in print.
It is best to refrain from using the phrase “no comment.” It implies you are hiding something or are uncooperative and does not convey the real reason you do not want to or cannot respond. Instead, explain why you would rather not discuss the matter.
If you are sharing a number of statistics, it’s a good idea to e-mail the numbers or tables in addition to discussing them verbally to make sure there are no misunderstandings.
Regardless of what type of media outlet you are talking to, there are certain general rules that apply in every situation.
Tips for Broadcast Interviews
There are additional considerations you should keep in mind when you are being interviewed on digital, video or audio formats for television, radio or the Internet:
Tips for Television
Arranging an Interview on Campus
Faculty and staff may invite reporters to their offices to conduct individual interviews regarding their personal areas of expertise and to support their academic efforts, such as classroom visits or public lectures.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of students and their education records. Under the law, certain information regarding individual students is classified as confidential and should not be discussed with members of the news media.
If you become aware of an immediate threat on campus, call 911. If you have concerns about campus safety, contact Public Safety. If media visit campus during a crisis or emergency, faculty and staff may not represent themselves as spokespersons for the university. Designated spokespeople will be selected by the executives in conjunction with the NIB staff.
For more information about communications procedures in an emergency, visit the DePaul Newsroom Emergency Information page.
News Conferences vs. Media Availabilities
There are two types of scenarios in which large groups of reporters are invited to ask questions in a group setting—news conferences and media availabilities.
News conferences usually are held to make announcements about major new initiatives or programs that are very likely to interest reporters. They usually feature one or more speakers who open the event with prepared statements and explanations of the initiatives they are announcing, then typically allow reporters to ask questions afterward. News conferences at DePaul are rare and usually are used only to make a major announcement that has university-wide implications.
Media availabilities are usually arranged when it is likely that there will be a large number of reporters wanting to ask the same questions of the same people.
News conferences and media availabilities must be coordinated by the NIB staff. Faculty and staff may not call a news conference on campus without the approval of their dean or vice president and coordination by NIB.
Infomercials and Advertorials
Please be aware that there are many vendors in the business of producing “sponsored” editorial content for publication or broadcast through paid programming on national media outlets. If you receive calls from such organizations or are considering such opportunities, contact NIB or the director of advertising in Enrollment Management and Marketing for guidance.
NIB monitors print news media for coverage on DePaul’s people and programs. If you have been interviewed by reporters with specialty trade or out-of-town publications, ask the reporter when the article is likely to appear so you can find it online or make arrangements to have a copy of the story sent to you. Please share a copy of the story with NIB.
Please note that posting news articles or broadcast clips directly on the campus website or displaying blow-ups of such coverage in public areas may be a copyright violation unless permission is granted by the media outlet. Contact NIB for guidance.
Direct Marketing for Your Event
Effective marketing tactics require advance planning.Identifiy the target audience for your event, and a variety of ways to reach it. Good examples are paid advertising in publications or on websites that reach this audience; brochures sent using purchased membership lists; and outreach to colleagues at other universities and external organizations that may be in touch with your target audience.
If you want to guarantee that the public knows about your program, you should use advertising. Advertising ensures that your information will be published or aired in the space you purchase on the date you specify in the format you provide and does not have to be deemed newsworthy by an editor. There are many types of advertising and marketing tactics—direct mail, flyers, e-mail, brochures—all of which can be used in tandem to create an effective awareness campaign for your event.
If you are targeting a DePaul audience:
The most effective marketing campaign will start weeks or months before your event and employ multiple methods of communication.
Inviting the Media
NIB alerts reporters to events happening on campus that they may find newsworthy. These efforts do not guarantee that a reporter will attend.
If media are invited to your event, be aware that the following provisions are implicit in your invitation:
If any of these conditions are problematic, you should reconsider whether issuing a general news release is the appropriate strategy and consult with NIB about other options.