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I f NEWS & PUBLIC AFFAIRS
I B IA Guide To Working With The Media
The news media are a vital link between the University of
Florida and the people of Florida and the United States. The
teaching, research and service performed on this campus affect
millions of people every day. Use of this guide to News & Public
Affairs can help assure that news about the University of Florida is
accurate, complete and available to as large an audience as possible.
I hope you will take time to review this guide and that you
will take advantage of the expertise of the News & Public Affairs
staff. There are so many positive and exciting stories at UF- let's not
keep them to ourselves.
Asst. Vice President/Director
* UF IN THE NEWS-WHO CARES AND WHY? Page 2
* NEWS & PUBLIC AFFAIRS 3
* REPORTING UF NEWS 3
* NEWS RELEASES 4
* DEALING DIRECTLY WITH THE MEDIA 6
* INTERVIEWS 7
* OP-ED COLUMNS 9
* PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS 10
* CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS 10
* FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 11
News & Public Affairs
355 Tigert Hall
Linda Gray, Assistant Vice President & Director
Joseph Kay-. Associate Director (Print)
141 Stadium West
Frank Ahern, Associate Director (Broadcast/Graphics)
HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER COMMUNICATIONS
Phone: 904/392-2621 Arline Dishong
IFAS EDUCATIONAL MEDIA AND SERVICES
Phone: 904/392-0437 Don voucherr
Phone: 904/375-4683, exl. 6100 lohn Humenik
UF IN THE NEWS WHO CARES AND WHY?
A UF sociology professor who has studied the roots of racism for
years was sought out by national media, including The New York Times,
Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal, to comment on the Los An-
geles riots and other racial incidents.
A UF anthropologist who is helping Indians in Mexico preserve
their native languages on computers was featured on CNN world-
wide and in The New York Times and dozens of other newspapers and
A UF political scientist was on the Rolodex of virtually every
reporter covering the 1992 presidential campaign and was quoted in
dozens of major national newspapers.
Because the University of Florida is a national leader in research,
teaching and public service, developments on campus are often
national news. That's why UF faculty, students and staff have been
featured in positive stories in virtually every major national news-
paper, in nationally circulated magazines and on major national and
* Why Promote Our News?
Faculty, staff and students often question the importance of
getting news about UF out to the general public.
Your work is an integral part of the University's mission of
teaching, research and public service. There is a legal and ethical
responsibility to let the public know what we do and who we are.
The news media are vital in building understanding and appre-
ciation of the University of Florida among constituents vital to the
future success of the university, including:
Alumni, present and future students and their families, state and
federal legislators, corporate and opinion leaders, current and po-
tential donors, fellow faculty and staff and colleagues at other
NEWS & PUBLIC AFFAIRS
News & Public Affairs is the primary media and public relations
office for the University of Florida, reporting directly to the Presi-
dent. The office is responsible for disseminating news about the
university and responding to media inquiries. It is the place to send
information and seek assistance in dealing with the news media.
News & Public Affairs also regularly advises the administration on
policy issues which could affect the public's perception of the
university and develops communication strategy.
Services include initiating news coverage; responding to media
requests for information, story ideas and faculty experts; producing
and distributing news and information about research activities,
people and programs; producing and distributing news and public-
ity photos; arranging interviews and media visits for faculty and
staff; advising colleges, departments and individuals on media and
public relations; providing media training to prepare faculty and
staff to deal effectively with the media; assisting in the preparation
of publications; and calling and coordinating news conferences,
REPORTING UF NEWS
News & Public Affairs is organized and functions much like a
news bureau for a major newspaper or television station. News &
Public Affairs writers keep up with newsworthy developments
campuswide and identify UF experts with the help of faculty, staff
It is vital that News & Public Affairs be alerted to a potential news
story as early as possible. In an emergency, we must act immedi-
ately. On other news, time is required to gather information and
notify the news media so they can find space for the story.
The effective dissemination and management of news requires
planning, which in turn requires advance notice of newsworthy
events. Sensitive information will be kept completely confidential,
so never hesitate to share information with News & Public Affairs.
We are all part of the university family.
Not all information is news. Each potential story will be evaluated
by the News & Public Affairs staff all of whom have worked in
commercial newspapers, magazines or television stations to de-
termine the interest among the media and other constituents.
Once writers have identified a story, News & Public Affairs
editors will decide the best ways to disseminate the news. This may
A news release (print or broadcast)
Accompanying photographs, if warranted
Tip sheets to reporters and editors nationwide
Personal contact with reporters and editors
Accompanying faculty or staff to professional meetings or
A news conference, when News & Public Affairs
determines one is warranted
A faculty- or staff-written opinion piece
* Print News
News & Public Affairs has cultivated an excellent relationship
with the news media by providing legitimate news stories, written
well and delivered in a timely manner. The chief vehicle for dissemi-
nating news about UF is the Associated Press. UF stories are written
in the basic news style, so wire services and newspapers that want to
use them have to make few or no changes. The stories provide
sufficient facts to also permit the paper to write its own story or to
serve as background for a journalist's interview.
* The Making Of A Story
News releases and tip sheets are created in the same way the news
media creates their stories, with one important exception. News &
Public Affairs writers offer the source of the story an opportunity to
check it for accuracy before it is released. Our news-gathering steps
Interviews with appropriate faculty, staff and / or students and
reviews of written source material
Discussion of content, target audience and timing
Writing of a draft release and initial editing
Reproduction and distribution
STiming Is Everything
News & Public Affairs works with faculty, staff and students to
coordinate the timing of a news release so that it will coincide with
a publication in a professional journal or a presentation at a profes-
sional meeting or other scheduled event. Besides ensuring that the
university does not "scoop" a professional publication, this coordi-
nated timing often increases interest in the story.
In addition to transmitting UF stories electronically to Associated
Press, the world's largest news- gathering and distribution network,
News & Public Affairs sends the information to newspapers and
magazines around Florida and beyond.
One reason News & Public Affairs writers adhere to a strict
journalistic style is to reduce the need for changes by the media.
Often, editors at AP and other media will make few or no changes to
a UF-written story. Others may shorten it, change the style or rewrite
it completely. Some may print it immediately, save it for weeks, or
file it and contact the source months, or even years, later.
News & Public Affairs cannot control what the media do with a
release after it leaves our office. We can increase the potential for
accuracy by giving reporters and editors well-written, factual material
at the start.
* Broadcast News
News & Public Affairs also has an extensive broadcast news
operation. Professionals with years of experience in commercial
television and radio use state-of-the-art cameras and other equipment
to produce television and radio stories you have probably seen and
heard on CNN, National Public Radio and your local evening news.
UF is one of only a few universities in the country with a satellite
uplink truck, which enables it to easily transmit broadcast-quality
news stories to national networks or local affiliates.
Many broadcast outlets make their news decisions based on
stories that have appeared on the AP wire, so News & Public Affairs
often coordinates its electronic news releases with the release of a
print news story.
DEALING DIRECTLY WITH THE MEDIA
A news release is often only the first step in a media process that can
continue for some time. Often, reporters or editors will call to ask the
source to elaborate on the information provided in the news release.
News & Public Affairs also encourages reporters to contact UF
faculty and staff directly if they have a question that requires a
specific area of expertise. In fact, the office publishes a book that lists
the expertise of almost all UF faculty and staff. This UF News Sources
Guide has been distributed to hundreds of reporters in Florida and
Media contacts may take a few minutes or, on some big stories
pursued by numerous media, several hours. Some reporters under-
stand the subject matter and are excellent interviewers; others are
generalists and may require significantly more background infor-
mation to report accurately.
Media interviews can be enjoyable and rewarding, or trying and
time consuming. Ultimately, however, the goal is to publicize the
research or activity and enhance your personal reputation and that
of the university. Remember, a young reporter from a small news-
paper may one day be a senior editor at The New York Times.
Respond promptly to media requests, even if it is to decline or to
refer the caller to News & Public Affairs. Reporters are usually under
extremely tight deadlines, and a delay of a day, or even an hour, can
mean the difference between favorable coverage and a lost opportu-
nity or a reporter disinclined to turn to UF for help. Your courtesy
will help UF now and in the future.
Before the interview:
SDevelop concise answers to a few key questions:
What is the purpose of your work? Why is it important?
What made you interested in this topic?
What makes your contribution unusual?
Who will benefit and how?
What is your main objective? If you could make only two
points with this story, what would they be?
Have you gathered all the printed materials you need?
During the interview:
Ask what type of story the reporter is pursuing, the context in
which you will be quoted and the reporter's background.
Repeat your main points at least twice.
Keep your statements clear and concise. Try to provide plain-
language interpretations and metaphors.
Speak slowly and spell difficult words or names.
Assume everything you say will be quoted. If you feel com-
menting is inappropriate or outside your area of expertise,
politely decline. Beware of going "off the record."
Don't limit yourself to answering questions. Raise points you
think are important.
Don't hesitate to correct the reporter if he or she makes an
Don't let reporters put words in your mouth.
After the interview:
Don't expect to see the story for publication. Unlike News &
Public Affairs, most reporters do not let sources review stories.
Feel free to call the reporter back with further information or
clarification, especially if the interview left you feeling uneasy.
Please notify News & Public Affairs about any media contacts
you have had, any questions or information generated by them
and any news stories that result. It will help us help you.
The same rules apply to broadcast news interviews, but television
and radio have their own rules and limitations. Preparation is still
the key to presenting your ideas in a concise way.
Speak in conversational tones. Don't use technical language or
jargon. Assume the listeners/viewers are completely unfamiliar
with the topic and its relevance to their lives. Use anecdotes and
metaphors that help simplify the concepts involved.
Don't create visual distractions with your clothes or appearance.
Dress conservatively, as if you were going on a job interview. Check
your hair just before going on camera. If seated, don't rock or swivel.
If standing, stand still. Animation and enthusiasm are fine if confined
to voice and facial expressions.
Maintain eye contact with the interviewer. Don't look at the
camera. Use small, decisive gestures to make points, not big, sweep-
Don't betray anger in your voice or appearance at an unexpected
or hostile question. Simply say you are not prepared to answer the
question at this time. Avoid the phrase "no comment." It has become
synonymous with guilt.
Get your main points in early and use every opportunity to re-state
them. Remember, however, that few "sound bites" are more than 20
Please mention the University of Florida in the sound bite to
ensure that your affiliation with UF is not edited out of the story.
Many newspapers rely on academics to put world and national
events in perspective for their readers through the op-ed, or opposite
editorial, page. The name has nothing to do with the writer's opinion,
but is derived from the column's position on the page opposite the
newspaper's editorial and letters to the editor.
The successful op-ed writer functions much like a journalist, but
with a strong opinion about the subject matter. Unlike traditional
academic writing, an op-ed should be written in "inverted pyramid"
style, meaning that the conclusions or strongest advice appears in the
first two or three paragraphs. As an expert, the op-ed writer should
not hesitate to forcefully state his or her opinions right away, then
back them up with supporting facts in subsequent paragraphs.
Avoid the trap of writing for other experts in the field, since this
will lead you to assume a level of knowledge your readers may not
have. Remember, the audience is the op-ed editor and the general
readership of the newspaper. Explain, however briefly, words or
phrases with which readers may not be familiar.
Op-ed editors prefer a maximum of 800 words (four pages, double
spaced), so keep your prose concise. The first paragraph, especially,
should be clear and tightly worded. Ask yourself: If the editor reads
only my first paragraph, will he or she know where the column is
going? Write in the active, not passive, tense.
While all these strictures may be intimidating, the journalists at
News & Public Affairs are available to help turn your opinions into
an effective op-ed column and get it to the proper editors.
PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS
Another way you may come in contact with the news media is
through a public records request. Since UF is a public institution and
Florida has one of the most liberal public records laws in the nation,
most of what we do at the university is open to public, and media,
If you receive a request for public records, please contact News &
Public Affairs. Many times a reporter or citizen is seeking information
from several different sections of the university, so News & Public
Affairs has developed a system for coordinating the release of public
information in a timely manner. Our office also works closely with the
university attorney to ensure that we are not releasing information, such
as student records, which would violate federal laws.
In addition to communicating positive information about the
university, News & Public Affairs is charged with responding to the
media and the public when a crisis arises. A rapid, informative
response is essential to the reputation of the university. Please include
News & Public Affairs among the offices to be notified when a crisis
arises in your area.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. How does News & Public Affairs decide what is news and what is
A. News & Public Affairs writers and editors have spent years at
newspapers and television stations deciding what news does and
does not get into the paper or on the air. Ultimately, it comes
down to the information that will affect and interest the greatest
number of people. If we decline to do a story, it does not mean
we are not interested, it just means that we have determined that
the story will not do well in the mass media.
Q. Besides the mass media, are there other vehicles for the distribution
of news about my research?
A. News & Public Affairs disseminates much of the information it
receives to the UF community through University Digest, which is
published weekly in The Independent Florida Alligator during the
school year. We also share information with the editor of the
TODAY alumni magazine and the editors of the other internal and
specialized publications produced on campus. You are also
welcome to contact those publications directly.
Q. Should I contact reporters directly?
A. News & Public Affairs encourages faculty and staff to cooper-
ate with the media, and you are welcome to contact reporters
directly. However, if the story is good enough for one reporter, it
is probably good enough for many more. So if you think you
have a good story, please contact our office first so that we can
help you get the maximum attention for it.
Q. When will my story appear?
A. Once News & Public Affairs releases a story, it has no influ-
ence over where, when, how or even whether it will appear.
Generally, the stories we send to Associated Press are released
immediately, but versions of the story could appear months later
in magazines. News & Public Affairs receives numerous clip-
pings every month and forwards many of them to the faculty or
staff member involved. Please send us clippings or notice of any
exposure you or your friends see.
Q. What if I have a problem or questions concerning news?
A. Call News & Public Affairs at 392-0186, IFAS Educational
Media and Services at 392-0437 or Health Science Center
Communications at 392-2621 and talk to the director or associate
director. They will be happy to advise and help you.
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