[A woman interviewing a Lego Sculpture. Photo by Matt Brown via Flickr & Creative Commons 2.0]
Let’s say you’re a young lab leader or grad student and you’ve just gotten an email from a journalist asking if you can speak to them about your upcoming paper. You haven’t heard of this reporter before. You ‘re not sure which outlet they’re writing for, and you’re concerned that a badly botched piece about your research might harm your standing in your field.
At the same time, a well-researched and well-written piece can actually help your research become more visible. A piece that highlights your research in Nature News & Comment might actually be something you want to (humbly) mention when up for faculty gigs. Plus, links to news articles for general audiences liven up your lab’s home page.
You may ask yourself, “How do I work this?” How do I make sure this interview goes as well as possible? How do I make sure that the reporters don’t take my comments out of context? Which reporters are worth talking to in the first place?!
As a young journalist, I can’t pretend not to have a horse in the race: I’m in favor of scientists taking time to talk to journalists, even (and maybe especially) those of us who are just starting out. There are a lot of resources out there on “media training” for scientists, which focus on telling scientists how to best “sell” yourself and your research, and I’ll link to several resources at the end of the article.
My perspective is that of a young journalist, not a seasoned media training expert. But I have interviewed enough scientists to recognize some behavior patterns. Here are some of the habits that good scientist sources* share and etiquette tips for responding to journalist behavior.
*[“source” = journalese for person or entity giving a journalist information]
Before the Interview
Step 0: Don’t Panic.
[Photo by Ruth Hartnup via Flickr & Creative Commons 2.0]