The University Policy Manual

  • Home »
  • Press Policy

II:D:003

Press Policy

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

  • (Approved by the Chancellor, January 1979)
  • (Revised March 1987)
  • (Revised March 1995)

Purpose

The purpose of this statement is to set forth the University's policy for working with the news media. In this regard, it is important to remember that UNCG is a state-supported institution and that the news media and the public have a direct interest in what occurs on this campus. Briefly stated, our Press Policy is based on three principles:

  1. The general free flow of information in accord with the public's right to know, the University's best interests, and the responsibilities of the news media;
  2. Honesty;
  3. A spirit of cooperation in supplying information to which the news media have a just and reasonable claim.

It is important to keep in mind that the news media, including newspapers, radio and TV, provide an important communication channel to the citizens served by this University. Public understanding and support of the University's programs can be enhanced through the maintenance of good relations with the press.

What To Do When Members of the News Media Call

  1. Most reporters prefer to talk with the most knowledgeable and direct source of information in a particular story. Therefore, the administrator or staff officer receiving an inquiry from the news media should feel free to respond directly if the request pertains to a matter for which he or she has direct responsibility.
  2. In taking such a call, the administrator or staff officer should first get the reporter's name and the news media organization that he or she represents. Then the individual should answer the reporter's questions as fully and openly as possible. If the individual doesn't know an answer, he or she should offer to obtain the information and to call back promptly.
  3. However, in the event of a crisis or controversy, it is necessary to contact the Director of the Office of Information Services before releasing information to the news media. (See Item II below.)
  4. If the administrator or staff officer is uncertain as to how much information should be provided, the call should be referred to the individual's Vice Chancellor or Provost.
  5. If the information being sought by the reporter can best be provided by the Office of Information Services, the call should be referred to that office.
  6. After answering a call from the news media, the administrator or staff officer should call the Office of Information Services and let personnel there know about the nature of the aforementioned.call. Oftentimes, this office can then provide helpful, supplementary information to the reporter who called.
  7. When a member of the news media calls for a UNCG administrator or staff officer and he or she is not in, the person taking the call should get the reporter's name, news organization and phone number, and then give the reporter some idea concerning when the person being sought will be available to return his or her call. If that is not satisfactory to the reporter, it is best to refer the caller to the Office of Information Services for further assistance.
  8. For other tips in responding to calls from the news media, see Appendix A attached to this policy.

Steps To Take When There Is a Crisis or Controversy

Most educational institutions occasionally will encounter varying degrees of a crisis or controversy. In such instances, the news media often will take a particularly keen interest in what transpires. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead for such occurrences.

The Vice Chancellor for University Advancement is responsible for coordinating all external communication on campus. In the event of a crisis or controversy, the Director of the Office of Information Services is authorized by the Vice Chancellor for University Advancement to fully coordinate the release of all information to the press. If the crisis or controversy is of a major nature, the University's Crisis Communication Plan will be implemented. Otherwise, the Press Policy guidelines--which are consistent with the Crisis Communication Plan--will apply. The procedures are as follows:

  1. In the event of a residence hall fire or other such major development in the area of public safety, the Director of the Office of Public Safety and Police will notify the Director of the Office of Information Services as soon as possible, even when the incident occurs after normal work hours. In like manner, when other crises or controversies develop that may be of interest to the news media, it will be the responsibility of the UNCG department head most directly involved to notify the Director of the Office of Information Services at an early point.
  2. In coordinating the release of such information to the news media, it is understood that the Director of the Office of Information Services shall fulfill such responsibilities through close consultation with appropriate University officials and with those most directly involved in any particular crisis or controversy.
  3. In the event of a crisis or controversy, it is necessary that individual University officials coordinate with the Director or the Office of Information Services before releasing information regarding such matters to the news media.
  4. In such cases, the first order of business is to gather essential facts. In more serious crises or controversies, this will be the responsibility of the University Counsel through consultation with the Office of Public Safety and Police and others who have relevant information. Otherwise, this will be the responsibility of the Director of Information Services. Thereafter, the Director of the Office of Information Services will prepare or assist in the preparation of a summary or fact sheet on the crisis or controversy.
  5. Through consultation with others, the Director of the Office of Information Services will determine the best method to release the necessary information to the news media. If needed, a University spokesperson will be selected. This person will be advised, as needed, by the Director of the Office of Information Services. If the issue involved is of special importance and has Universitywide implications, the official spokesperson will be the Vice Chancellor for University Advancement. In other instances, it will be a UNCG official who has major program responsibility in the area involved.
  6. In such instances, it will be necessary for those University officials involved to give their full cooperation, including participation in a press briefing, as the need arises.
  7. The purpose of the steps under this section are to ensure that the University provides factual information in a consistent fashion. Without such careful coordination in these circumstances, inaccurate, contradictory or conflicting information can sometimes be released to the news media.

Conclusion

It should be understood that the information released under this policy will be in full compliance with both the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act, otherwise known as the Buckley Amendment, and applicable General Statues. With that in mind this policy may be limited in some individual instances to protect the right of students, faculty or other University employees. This policy may be limited also in other instances by legalities, expressed matters of confidentiality or other unforeseen circumstances. However, the intent of the policy is to provide information to which the news media have a just and reasonable claim, and to do so in a cooperative, coordinated fashion.

Contact

Comments or questions? Email the Policy Administrator.



APPENDIX A

Fifteen general tips to remember in talking with the news media:

  1. When a reporter calls, try to return the call as soon as possible.
  2. Before the interview, prepare your message with three to five key points.
  3. During the interview, state important facts first.
  4. Always tell the truth. Don't lie, don't guess at the facts and don't exaggerate.
  5. If you cannot answer the question, explain the reason. If you don't know the answer, offer to obtain the information and call the reporter back promptly.
  6. Avoid saying "no comment" in answer to a reporter's question. "No comment" gives a reporter the wrong signal and looks terrible in print.
  7. If you are uncertain how you wish to answer a particular question, tell the reporter you need to obtain more information. Then call the Office of Information Services for advice. We will be glad to assist you.
  8. Do not make "off the record" comments. Even though you may feel comfortable with a reporter during an interview, you should not make comments and then say ... "but don't print that." That puts the reporter in an awkward position after you have freely provided information.
  9. During TV interviews, be brief. Make your key points in 15-second "sound bites."
  10. Avoid complex explanations.
  11. Don't ask to preview a reporter's story. Instead, during the interview do your best to make sure that the reporter fully understands the subject. And encourage him or her to call back if further clarification is needed.
  12. Remember that the reporter is a conduit to the public. Try to speak through the reporter to the public.
  13. After you have answered a reporter's question, and he or she looks expectantly to you for something more, don't try to fill the lull in the conversation by rambling and diluting your message.
  14. Provide concise information to the reporter.
  15. Always maintain a positive attitude in working with the news media.