Resources for Faculty

Media Tips for Researchers


Effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the pub­lic through the media is one of the key ways for researchers to share their dis­cov­er­ies and gen­er­ate under­stand­ing and sup­port for the aca­d­e­m­ic research mis­sion.

The fol­low­ing tips can help if you are expect­ing to do an inter­view soon or sim­ply want to be pre­pared when a reporter calls.

Before you agree to an inter­view:

Jour­nal­ists are almost always rac­ing the clock. Return calls prompt­ly, but remem­ber that you are not oblig­ed to do an inter­view on the spot. If you need time to pre­pare, ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask the jour­nal­ist for the infor­ma­tion you need to pre­pare:

  • What is your arti­cle about?
  • Why are you writ­ing this now (i.e., what is the “news hook” or the rea­son for the sto­ry)?
  • How much time do you need for the inter­view?
  • Who else are you speak­ing to?
  • What is your dead­line?

Each medi­um has dif­fer­ent require­ments. For TV or radio, for exam­ple, ask:

  • What is the for­mat?
  • Is it live?
  • Will there be a pan­el and if so, who else is on it?
  • Get the reporter’s name and con­tact infor­ma­tion, and call back at a mutu­al­ly agreed time (once you’re pre­pared).

Dur­ing the inter­view:

Explain the sig­nif­i­cance of your work to every­day life. What are the impli­ca­tions? Why should some­one out­side of your field care about this?

The jour­nal­ist won’t use every­thing you say. Decide in advance on your two or three key points and make them clear­ly.

Use lan­guage that the layper­son will under­stand. Sim­ple, straight­for­ward expla­na­tions, free of jar­gon, reduce the chance of dis­tor­tion or error.

The reporter does not know as much about your area as you do. And he or she may have received the assign­ment only an hour ago, so don’t be sur­prised if the reporter seems unpre­pared. Have patience in clar­i­fy­ing facts and issues that may seem sim­ple to you.

Do not tell the reporter how to do his or her job. Reporters know their audi­ences, and the require­ments of jour­nal­is­tic writ­ing are dif­fer­ent, for exam­ple, from those of an aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nal.

Researchers are jus­ti­fi­ably wary of their results being over­stat­ed and cre­at­ing false hopes. Min­i­mize this pos­si­bil­i­ty by out­lin­ing clear­ly and con­cise­ly the main find­ings, how they fit into the big­ger pic­ture, and the need and direc­tion for future research.

If you have addi­tion­al images or video that might help illus­trate the sto­ry, offer these (pro­vid­ed you have copy­right to do so).

If you are pro­mot­ing a pub­li­ca­tion or paper, ensure you under­stand and abide by the journal’s embar­go require­ments.

You won’t get to review the reporter’s sto­ry before it runs. But do let the reporter know that you are avail­able to answer any fur­ther ques­tions or clar­i­fy infor­ma­tion. Pro­vide a phone num­ber where you can be eas­i­ly reached to check facts.

Some media out­lets have “beat” reporters who fol­low par­tic­u­lar areas. Like most of us, reporters tend to call back the peo­ple they know will help them do their job well.

Treat the inter­view as a devel­op­ing rela­tion­ship. There is no sub­sti­tute for hav­ing a good per­son­al rela­tion­ship with a reporter spe­cial­iz­ing in your area based on respect, reli­a­bil­i­ty and cred­i­bil­i­ty.

Don’t be afraid to show your enthu­si­asm for your work and men­tion your depart­ment and, of course, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to!

Get into the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Blue Book!

Add your name to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Blue Book of experts for media. This enables media to find you and reach you eas­i­ly when they need your exper­tise for a sto­ry.

It’s a sim­ple process to sign up — you just need your UTORid and pass­word. Con­tact for details.

Being in the Blue Book indi­cates a will­ing­ness to respond to media inquiries and to do so in a time­ly way: reporters are often on tight dead­lines.

If you are con­tact­ed by a reporter and are unable to respond your­self, sim­ply redi­rect the inquiry to