Public understanding of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University programs, plans and policies can be supported through good relations with the news media. The best means of developing such relations is by providing honest and helpful information to the media in an atmosphere of mutual respect and candor. Prompt, open handling of media queries helps create goodwill, encourages reporters to seek information from official sources and increases the likelihood of accurate and balanced news stories.
The following guidelines may be useful to individuals and offices in responding to press queries:
- The College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Office of Marketing and Communications issues all news releases pertaining to the college and university.
- Faculty and staff members are urged to keep Marketing and Communications informed about events, incidents and developments in which there is a current or potential public interest. Whenever possible, ample lead time (a minimum of three weeks) should be allowed for preparation of a news release and distribution to the media.
- Faculty and staff are requested to forward all media inquiries immediately to the Marketing and Communications office before granting an interview. We will then determine the appropriate action, offer appropriate professional counsel, and refer media queries to the appropriate person. When contacted by a referred media, be fair, factual and friendly in responding to all questions. If the request for information is reasonable, the reporter should be given full cooperation.
When responding to the media, you should be aware that often information pertaining to student records and certain events applying to faculty, staff and students is protected or the form of its release is prescribed by both state and federal laws and guidelines related to privacy. These are very complex issues and may involve legal liability if improperly released or commented upon. If you are not familiar with these laws, you should advise the reporter that you feel the information may be protected and that you need to be certain before responding.
- It is entirely appropriate to ask reporters why they are calling and, if necessary, to ask for time to prepare before proceeding with an interview. Please be aware, however, that the reporter may be working on deadline and needs a response in a timely manner. Failing to do so may cause the reporter to go to another source for the information.
- Normally, a campus source is expected only to comment only on matters within his or her area of expertise. If a reporter asks for comments outside your area of expertise, respectfully decline to comment and refer the reporter to Marketing and Communications for referral to a more appropriate source.
- It is never advisable to comment on a controversial issue with the promise that your name will not be used. The best rule is, "if you don't want it used, don't say it." In no event should reporters be expected to honor a request for a statement to be made "off the record" without advance warning. The best professional practice is to never speak "off the record".
- Since it is the college and university's policy to avoid making direct attacks or negatively judgmental statements about other institutions, organizations, or individuals, faculty and staff are cautioned against making such comments in their capacity as employees. When personal opinions are given, please make certain the reporter understands you are speaking for yourself and not for the college or university.
- A respondent has the right to say "no comment" or "I'd prefer not to comment" or "It would be inappropriate for me to comment." Generally, however, it is possible to avoid saying "no comment," a phrase which is easily misinterpreted by the media and general public alike. Consult with Marketing and Communications for advice before proceeding with an interview about a controversial topic.
- If a question cannot be answered accurately, feel free to respond, "I don't know the answer to that."
- Do not assume the opportunity to review a reporter's story before it is published or broadcast. The reporter is under no obligation to share copy. If scientific or technical data are involved, it may be suggested that the reporter double check for accuracy, particularly if the reporter is not a writer specializing in the field. Some reporters offer to review data or quotes if time permits.
- When an interview is broadcast, remember that people in radio and television news usually can report only the barest essentials of a story. Responses should be as brief and simple as is possible while retaining accuracy.
- If the media request involves photography, please notify the Marketing and Communications staff so proper authorization and notification of Security/Life Safety is obtained.
College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University
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