Talking to the Press

Talking to the Press

Talking to the Press

Tina McDowell, Natasha Metzler, Alan Boss

October 9, 2015


Natasha Metzler, Carnegie science writer and social media strategist, Tina McDowell, Carnegie science writer, and Alan Boss, staff scientist at DTM, discussed the subject of talking to the media to a filled capacity audience of postdoctoral fellows and members of the scientific staff.  They presented on the same subject in July 2012. 

In attendance:

DTM:  Rick Carlson, Jessica Donaldson, Elizabeth Frank, Jonathan Gagne, Amanda Lough, Erika Nesvold, T.J. Rodigas, Steve Shirey, Johanna Teske, Lara Wagner

GL:  Michael Ackerson, Sergey Lobanov, Anat Shahar, Corliss Kin I Sio, Raj Vadapoo. 

Also in attendance:  Robin Dienel, Janice Dunlap, and Carnegie Science Deputy Margaret Moerchen

Important points: 

  • Be reachable
  • Never break a news embargo; if the news story is embargoed, only speak with reporters you trust
  • Speak to the reporter in an accessible way; keep it simple
  • What results have you found, and why should anyone care?
  • Is the work something that could be a breakthrough?
  • Think of the big picture, not methodology
  • Include a story or humanize an aspect of the finding
  • Include an image, good visual element, and memorable sound bite
  • No jargon
  • Include helpful analogies
  • Get it right the first time

If your interview is via phone or skype, ask the reporter if they would like to read anything back to you; find out if they understand what you are talking about.  Many news agencies do not have science writers.

Social media, i.e., twitter, is a good tool for maintaining relationships with the press, since many reporters follow news bits through social media.

Do not use "off the record" because nothing told to a reporter is off the record, especially if being critical of someone else's results.  Try something like "because of .... I don't think it is right or good."  Be honest and be sensible.

If you find a mistake in an interview you conducted, contact P Street's press (Natasha or Tina) ASAP, it can be corrected!  If you are in doubt with regard to the freelancer who wants to interview you, contact Natasha or Tina.

Check out the attached powerpoint presentations!!