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Tips for Newspaper Interviews

•  Reporters are often on deadline and so it’s important to respond promptly to inquiries, preferably by phone, as email boxes are inundated.

•  If a reporter calls and you are busy or need time to collect your thoughts and research an issue, it’s okay to ask if you can call back in a few minutes, and schedule a time.

•  It’s appropriate to ask what the story is about and what type of comments they are looking for. They may have specific questions they want to explore.

•  Be concise and avoid long explanations or academic jargon, and use every-day examples whenever possible. Reporters look for colorful, lively quotes.

•  Start with conclusions, and then fill in the background information.

•  Ideally, all sentences should be of “stand alone” quality. The context given by surrounding sentences may not always be included. It’s a good idea to rehearse ahead of time if possible.

•  Speak slowly and clearly enough for the reporter to accurately transcribe your responses.

•  If the interviewer doesn’t ask a question that would shed light on a particular topic, you can offer additional background.

•  Speak with conviction in a conversational manner. Be confident and remember that you are the expert.

•  Although most journalists are ethical, remember that anything “off the record” may not end up off the record.

•  If you are asked about a controversial issue and don’t wish to comment, avoid using the phrase, “No comment.” It’s better to say “I can’t comment on that issue right now.” If asked again, repeat the sentence.

•  The media industry is contracting, and many reporters are working under great stress. Most are ethical and trying to do their best to prepare excellent news stories. Be as open, honest and friendly as possible. They are people, first and foremost.