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Saginaw Valley State University exists to serve the public.

The people of this community provide the financial support and encouragement that make SVSU possible. They have the right to know, through the news media, how we carry out our duties and responsibilities.

The News Media Can Help Us

To better serve our students and the community, we need to tell them more about whom we are and what we do here at Saginaw Valley State University.

The news media often convey that message. And so the entire administrative staff needs to be more aware of how we can cooperate with the news media, in ways that will best serve both our students and the community at large.

The news media can often help us do our job. We cannot reach many of our student and prospective students in any other way. They will not know of our programs if they do not hear about them through the media.

Reporters are Part of the Public, Too

Reporters have the right to answers for any questions you would answer for any student or member of the public.

Example: "What is the University's current tuition?" We would answer that question for anybody who asked. Usually, it would be a prospective student. So we would be unusually helpful. You should give reporters that same kind of information and help.

Make Sure Your Facts are Accurate

You should be sure that your answers to reporters' questions are accurate and current. If you don't know the answer, make a special effort to find the person in the University who CAN get the information for the reporter. Or, call or refer to the Media Relations Officer at 964-4055.

Reporters Have Deadlines

Remember that reporters are working against a deadline. They usually need their questions answered quickly. A prompt, courteous reply is a good public relations for the University. It's good business.

Notify the Office of University Communications

As a matter of policy, after you have given generic information to a reporter, please notify the Media Relations Officer. He/She has been assigned the responsibility of working with the news media.

We would like to keep track of how reporters use the information we give them. Perhaps we'll call later with follow-up suggestions after the story is printed or broadcast. If the reporter's inquiry would call for extensive use of University employee time or resources, you also should clear that with the Media Relations Officer before you commit to do the research.

Matters of University/Board Policy

If the reporter's question involves a policy of the University, a specific incident, or a personnel decision, the reporter should courteously be referred to the Media Relations Officer.

These questions are sometimes sensitive in terms of student or employee confidentiality. How much information we provide the public is often a policy decision that can only be made at the administrative level of the University.

Example: "We have a tip that you plan to open another campus and appoint John Employee as director of that campus. Can you confirm that?" Or, "To compete with other institutions, some universities are offering free laptop computers with each enrollment. Is SVSU considering such an incentive?"

We might be, but we might not want to advertise it just yet. So the Media Relations Officer will confer with the President before deciding how the reporter's question should be answered.

Remember, on some questions you can give away the answer just in the way you say you can't answer. So refer the reporter to the Media Relations Officer without giving any indication of what the answer is.

Never Lie or Try to Deceive the Media

It's much better to say, "I'm sorry, I can't answer that question right now," than to give a deceptive answer. Explain why you can't answer. Avoid saying "No comment."

Reporters respect honesty more than any other character trait, and so do our students. We must NEVER give the appearance of being evasive or deceptive. If you give that impression to a reporter, it probably will be passed on to the reporter's readers, viewers or listeners.

SVSU is the People Who Work Here

SVSU is not a building or a university. It is the people who work here. We are constantly judged by the public's perception of the people who represent SVSU. When a student or a reporter finds an employee helpful and friendly, the University builds its reputation as a helpful, friendly place.

When an employee is grumpy and uncooperative, then that student or reporter gets the idea that everybody in the University is that way.

What is News?

News is the unusual. It can be good or bad news.

News is information people need in their daily lives.

It can be information that makes their lives more enjoyable and profitable.

It can be information that warns them to take special precautions. Bad news always seems to leak out. Gossips thrive on stories of human frailty or failure. Once they spread their gossip, the media have a responsibility to publish or broadcast it, if they decide it will serve the public interest.

"Good news" often goes unreported -- not because the media is not interested, but because they never hear about it. Gossips don't spread those kinds of stories.

One of your responsibilities is to be sure the Office of University Communications hears about human interest stories. The office will know who to call in the local media to see if they are interested. But the call will never be made unless you bring the story to the office's attention.

News Pegs

The media is constantly looking for local stories that tie to a national story. They call these stories "news pegs." They are local stories pegged to a larger, national or international story.

There are many "experts" in academia that could generate news pegs. Here again, the local media may not know of the local news peg unless we tell them.

Keep that in mind when you know that we are somehow involved in some University activity that could be pegged to a national or international incident. Please inform the Media Relations Officer so the story can be passed along.

Cameras on Campus

Reporters and photographers have the same right to enter public areas of SVSU as any other citizen.

They do not have the right to interfere with University business or our students' expectation of privacy.

When a news photographer enters a University building and begins taking pictures, you should notify the Office of University Communication immediately. The employee should approach the photographer and courteously ask for what the pictures will be used.

Remember, rudeness on camera always gives a bad impression of the University. If the reporter or photographer is rude, we won't see that in the news. But if YOU are rude, we will probably see just HOW rude on tonight's news. And tomorrow's news. And in future stories about SVSU.

As a matter of policy, we will be glad to help the news photograph University operations. We would like to know in advance what they want and need, so we can arrange the photography with the least interference to our students, University security and our normal business.

If the photographer is belligerent or uncooperative, politely ask him to leave. In this kind of conflict with the media, make sure you are not the one who behaves badly.

The First Contact

Many employees may decide the safest course of action is to avoid reporters at all costs. However, because a reporter's first contact is often an entry-level employee who knows nothing about media relations, the reporter scares them and they become very defensive.

The reporter may interpret that employee's response as the official company line. A story that was critical suddenly may head toward a full expose of scandal in the presidential suite.

The Basic Points

  1. We need to tell the public who we are and what we do.
  2. Public knowledge of SVSU is vital to our success.
  3. Reporters and photographers need to be treated courteously and diplomatically. Their impression of you becomes their impression of the entire institution, and that is reflected in their stories.
  4. Discuss with reporters only those facts you personally know about.
  5. If you don't have personal knowledge/expertise, help the reporter reach someone who does, or refer them to the Office of University Communications.
  6. If you would give a student or donor public information the reporter is asking for, give it without hesitation to the reporter.
  7. Let the Media Relations Officer know as soon as possible after any contact with the media. We need to be aware of stories that involve us, so we can provide additional information.
  8. Refer media questions about policy or complicated technical issues to the Media Relations Officer.
  9. Return all reporters' calls within 15 minutes, if at all possible. If a message is left and the person the reporter called cannot be reached, someone else should return the call. We do not want to be surprised by tonight's newscast or tomorrow afternoon's newspaper. A story about SVSU should never say we "could not be reached for comment."
  10. Every story about SVSU should include our perspective or point of view. That cannot happen if we don't talk to the reporter.
  11. Never say "No comment." It sounds like you're hiding something.
  12. We should not discuss certain kinds of issues with reporters because of (a) the law; (b) our ethics or rules of procedure; (c) employee/student confidentiality; or (d) some major harm that might result. Make sure the reporter understands why you cannot answer the question. Refer the reporter to University Communications.
  13. The media has a legal right to observe, photograph and record any event or any person in a public place. This does not include the classroom, the locker room or private offices.
  14. Remember:
    1. Be open and cooperative. Never lie.
    2. Personalize SVSU as much as possible.
    3. Take good stories to the Office of University Communications.
    4. Respond quickly.
    5. Never say "No comment".
    6. It's OK to say, "I don't know" (but I'll find out).
    7. If you screw up, confess and repent.
    8. Use the "Big Dump" when you have bad news to dump. Dump it all at once. Don't let it dribble out. That will prolong the stories and multiply the damage.
    9. Prepare.
  15. If you are uncomfortable with a particular question or reporter, ask politely to postpone the interview and contact the Media Relations Officer. Explain to the reporter that you need assistance with critical points to ensure accurate information is presented.



Adopted 7/14/98