Working with the Media
Our job is to develop relationships with journalists and other opinion-shapers, and engage them in helping tell UC Merced's story accurately. We work closely with faculty, staff, students and administrators to produce news releases, videos and Web features that describe UC Merced’s groundbreaking research, academic excellence and community service.
In most cases, the media will contact University Communications directly and we will contact you to set up an interview by telephone or in-person. If a reporter should contact you directly, please follow up as soon as possible with a phone call to let us know that a media contact was made, the identity of the reporter and the subject matter of the interview. It is important that we keep track of all media calls, especially since we may be working with another media source on the same story.
The campus has a policy for staff related to media inquiries and contact information for media representatives in University Communications.
If contacted by a reporter, keep in mind:
- Most journalists aren't out to make you look bad.
- Most journalists don't approach a story with a lot of preconceptions. They might start with a premise, but most will go where the story leads, not vice versa.
- Most journalists don't want to get the story wrong.
- There are exceptions to every rule, so if you want to know more about a particular reporter, contact University Communications. We've worked with most of them or can look back at past articles they've written to get a feel for their style.
Unless they specialize in a topic, most journalists know less about what you do than the average freshman in an intro course. They know a little about a lot of topics, but it's their job to learn more. As Carl Bernstein once said, journalism is about presenting the best obtainable version of the truth. That's why they seek your help. Whether it's your expert opinion, your experience as a student, staff or faculty member, your interesting life and work, your view on an issue happening on or around campus, they want to talk to you.
You are Not Obligated to Speak to the Press
If you don't want to answer questions or have your picture taken, politely declining is usually enough. Sometimes you're too busy. Sometimes you aren't the right person for the interview. Sometimes you just don't want to talk about what they want to talk about.
Before you say no, though, consider how that decision might be construed. If the topic is controversial, you have to decide: Is it better to speak and get your side of the story out there, or is it better to let readers/viewers see "Jane Doe refused to comment?" Maybe it's better to comment, maybe it's not.
If you need help talking with a reporter or declining an interview, University Communications is here to assist you.
Timing is Everything
Because reporters work on a different timeline than those of us at a university, their calls or emails might be inconvenient.
Reporters usually contact University Communications to find the right person for their interviews. However, they are not required to do so, and sometimes, they will call or email you directly or show up where you are.
If you are not the right person to speak on the topic, let the reporter know and refer them to our office for further assistance. If the timing doesn’t work for you, say so. The reporter can either find someone else or work with you to set up an alternate time. If you schedule an interview for later, it gives you time to prepare.