Public understanding of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University programs, plans and policies are supported through good relations with the news media. This is achieved by providing honest and helpful information to the media in an atmosphere of mutual respect and candor. Prompt, open handling of media queries creates goodwill, encourages reporters to seek information from official sources and increases the likelihood of accurate and balanced news stories.
Working with the Media
The following guidelines should be followed by faculty and staff in responding to media queries:
The College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Office of Marketing and Communications is the only entity permitted to issue news releases pertaining to the college and university.
Faculty and staff should forward all media inquiries immediately to Marketing and Communications before granting an interview. We will determine the appropriate action, refer to the appropriate spokesperson, and offer professional counsel as needed.
- Never grant an interview cold. It is appropriate to ask reporters why they are calling and to ask for time to prepare before proceeding with an interview. Please be aware that the reporter may be working on a 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 or include “CSB/SJU did not respond to interview requests” in the story.
- Stay in your lane. 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.
Speaking with the Media
After consultation with Marketing and Communications, please use the following guidelines when speaking with the media:
- Be fair, factual and friendly. If the request for information is reasonable, the reporter should be given full cooperation.
- There is no such thing as “off the record.” Reporters cannot turn off their newsgathering switch. It is never advisable to comment with the promise that your name will not be used in the story. The best rule is, “if you don't want it used, don't say it.” It is advised to never speak “off the record.”
- It’s okay if you don’t know the answer. If a question cannot be answered accurately, you can say, “I don't know the answer to that.” Reporters don’t want you to speculate because they want their story to be accurate.
- Once the interview is over, you lose control. It is inappropriate to ask a reporter to review the story before it is published or broadcast. The reporter is under no obligation to share it. If scientific or technical data are involved, you can politely offer to double check their information for accuracy, particularly if the reporter does not specialize in the field. Some reporters proactively offer to review data or quotes if time permits or if the story is sensitive.
- Be concise. The typical broadcast sound bite is less than 15 seconds. The typical print quote is less than 25 words. News stories usually report only the barest essentials of a story. Your responses should be as brief and simple as is possible while retaining accuracy.
- Don’t approve photography requests: If the media request involves photography, please notify the Marketing and Communications staff so proper authorization and notification of Security/Life Safety is obtained.
Student and Personnel Information
When responding to the media, information pertaining to student records and certain events applying to faculty, staff and students may be protected or the form of its release is prescribed by both state and federal laws and privacy guidelines. These are complex issues and may involve legal liability if improperly released or commented upon. You must contact Marketing and Communications before releasing information.
Never say “no comment” to a reporter. This phrase can easily be misinterpreted by the media and general public. Instead, tell the reporter why you cannot comment on the topic (e.g., private personnel information, outside your area of expertise, ongoing investigation). Always consult with Marketing and Communications before proceeding with an interview about a controversial topic.
It is the college and university's policy to avoid speculating, making direct attacks, or negatively judgmental statements about other institutions, organizations or individuals. Faculty and staff should not make such comments in their capacity as employee spokespeople.
Event News Releases
Faculty and staff members must inform Marketing and Communications 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.
For the Media
The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University media relations staff will respond promptly, courteously and professionally to requests from members of the news media who seek information about the college or university or access to its administrators, faculty, staff and students. In turn, Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s expect members of the news media to conduct themselves in an ethical and professional manner when contacting or interacting with members of the college or university community and when visiting the campuses. The college and university reserve the right to break off contact with news media representatives who consistently fail to adhere to these expectations.