When working with student journalists, there are several major concerns that staff, faculty, students and administrators commonly have:
- I am afraid that the reporter will misquote or misunderstand me and that my boss, coach, or professor will hold me accountable, even though it is not my fault.
- I am afraid I might speak out of turn or say something I shouldn’t.
- I am afraid that the reporter will come unprepared or will behave unprofessionally, and waste my time.
- I am afraid I may not speak eloquently, and will come off as unprepared or foolish.
All of these concerns are normal and legitimate. This guide will address all of them.
Fear of Being Misquoted or Misunderstood
It is the student reporter’s job to accurately and correctly convey information from interviews. However, if a mistake is made, contact the editor or manager of publication in which the error occurred or that publication’s faculty advisor. If necessary, Doane Student Media will run a correction.
There are also several ways to help prevent mistakes from happening in the first place.
Most student reporters prefer to record their interviews. However, before doing this they must first ask permission. By allowing the student reporter to record the interview, you are giving them a clear record from which to work.
Be Clear and Straightforward
The best way to make sure the student reporter understands you is to make what you’re trying to convey to them as clear as possible. Student reporters will often try to paraphrase what you said to make sure they understood it correctly. However, if this is not happening and you are not sure if the reporter understands you, it is perfectly acceptable to go back and clarify what you said.
Ask for Key Questions Before the Interview
Some people prefer to have time to think and consider their responses before answering questions. An in person interview is not always conducive to this. It is understandable that some may prefer to do interviews over email. In person interviews, though, are always preferred. It is more difficult for either party to be misunderstood when they are meeting face to face. A good compromise is to ask the reporter to send you a list of key questions before the interview, that way you will have time to consider your answer. It is important to understand that the reporter may ask other questions in addition those sent, and will likely ask follow up questions based on your answers.
Ask the Reporter to Run Quotes by You
You are allowed to ask the student reporter to run any direct quotes by you, in person or over phone or email, to confirm their accuracy before adding them to an article. In fact, student reporters are encouraged to do so if they are unsure of something. You are not allowed to see the article before it is published. Please keep in mind that both reporters and editors are working on tight deadlines. If the accuracy of the quotation is not in doubt, then the it may be published before your approval because of time constraints. The editors of Doane Student Media will not publish any information or quotation if they have reason to doubt its accuracy. The same rules apply for paraphrasing.
Fear of Sharing Your Opinion
Depending on the assigned article, a reporter may ask for your opinion on a certain topic. You are of course free to decline to share your opinion. However, you are allowed to give your opinion to the press by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You cannot be punished for sharing your opinion with a student reporter.
Fear of Working with Unprofessional or Unprepared Student Reporters
New student reporters are in the process of learning how to professionally conduct an interview. One of the first things their editors, mentors or adviser will teach them is how to to properly and professionally prepare for and conduct an interview. However, it is still a learning process and there will likely be some reporters who fail to adequately prepare for an interview. Please remember that it is the student’s responsibility to conduct the interview - not yours. It is inappropriate for the interviewee to direct the interview in a certain way, by telling the reporter what questions to ask. Reporters are encouraged to ask whether the interviewee has anything to add at the end of each interview. At that time, add any information you think the reporter failed to gather from the interview.
It’s understandable for a source to have limited time to meet with a student reporter. If a reporter shows up late or fails to show up to an interview, you are not obligated to take more time out of your day than scheduled.