Related Policies and Additional References:
The Office of University Communications, which reports directly to the Office of the President, has primary responsibility for media relations at St. Mary’s University. (Note: The Law Communications staff member is a member of the Office of University Communications.) The responsibilities include:
- Publicizing the University in the media
- Finding faculty and staff members to comment as expert sources, and
- Coordinating and/or responding to matters related to crisis or emergencies
When public comment on behalf of the university is requested, the Chief of Staff and Communications identifies an appropriate spokesperson, in coordination with the President. No one may speak on behalf of the university nor interpret university policy unless designated as a spokesperson.
Faculty and Staff Response to Media Calls
When faculty and staff members are asked to comment or provide information on an institutional question or an issue that relates to the entire institution, the reporter should be referred to the Office of University Communications. The staff will refer the reporter to the appropriate source for comment.
When a member of the news media contacts a faculty or staff member to comment on a topic that is within an employee’s area of expertise (e.g., about a faculty member’s academic research or area of academic specialization), the employee may answer questions immediately, if so desired. However, if the news media plan to take photo or video images of a faculty or staff member on campus or of the campus, the Office of University Communications must be contacted to coordinate the process.
If the faculty or staff member prefers to give some thought to the questions before answering, or if she/he has questions about the interview and how to respond, the University Communications Office recommends the employee take the reporter’s phone number, inquire about the reporter’s deadline, and return the call later. Faculty or staff faced with this situation may then contact the Office of University Communications. The Office will be glad to share information about the reporter, the angle the story is likely to take, other stories the reporter may be researching or writing at the time, and any other background information that may be helpful in advance of the interview. While media representatives often work under deadlines, they sometimes can email questions in advance, and a few may be willing to read direct quotes back to a source. For student journalists, the University requires written questions be supplied to the University spokesperson along with their interview requests.
While it is optional for a faculty or staff member to contact the Office of University Communications prior to talking with a reporter about the employee’s area of expertise, it is very important that the Office be notified immediately after the faculty or staff member has spoken with a reporter. The Office monitors and tracks the progress of all St. Mary’s-related stories in order to help reporters find sources and gather facts. Knowing to whom a reporter has talked will assist in the tracking process, and it allows the Office to provide the reporter with all pertinent information. In addition, an archive of published news stories about St. Mary’s is maintained by the University Communications Office and reported annually.