8 Source Blunders to Avoid When Dealing with a Journalist

You interviewed with a journalist and had your advice mentioned in a national publication. You know the journalist writes about  education all the time and you made sure to let her know you specialize in higher education. So why hasn’t she called you back for future interviews?  Chances are you’ve committed one or more of the following blunders that can make a source’s or interviewee’s reputation self-destruct.

1. Having limited availability.

Journalists often work on a deadline. Don’t expect the writer to be happy to use you if you schedule a time to chat but then suddenly  become unavailable and request to reschedule. We understand that life happens, but we’ve got a job to do. Having to reschedule your interview or search for a completely different source creates more pressure for getting the story in before deadline. Journalists like to have a stable of sources they know are dependable in a moments notice. Continuously rescheduling, proves you are incapable of that status and will warrant limited callbacks.

2. Playing avoidance.

If a journalist asks how you think parents should handle their child’s crushes, don’t go around the question by providing information about every childhood crush you can think of and how  none of them lasted. Of if you asked whether or not Trayvon Martin was killed because he was wearing a hoodie, don’t tell the writer that black people look best in jeans but you love to wear skirts most. Avoiding a journalist’s questions is never a way to their hearts. Address the question at hand and only provide background information if it is pertinent to the topic or question asked.

3. Rewriting the story.

When journalists call you to verify a quote or a fact, please don’t attempt to rewrite the whole story for them. The process is called fact-checking, not have an amateur edit and do your job for you. When placed in this situation, simply answer the writer’s question and move on. Nothing extra is necessary at that point unless asked for it.

4. Being a product pusher.

The story may be about chemicals found in hair products, but you probably shouldn’t continuously push your fabulous new all natural shampoo throughout the entire interview. The story is about the topic not your amazing life and products. All that is needed is your expert opinion, so refrain from the sales pitch.

5. Pimp your marketing.

Even if the interview went well, it is inappropriate to sign journalists up for an influx of your newsletters or campaigns. We already have to deal with an overflowing amount of press releases in our mailbox. The last thing we need is another unrequested item to clutter our lives and emails.

6. Requesting special access.

No matter how many times I decline and explain the reason, sources still feel the need to routinely ask to see the story before it’s published. It’s a surefire way to get you blacklisted as a source. Journalists and publications maintain credibility by not being influenced by third parties. Allowing sources to see stories before it is published appears as though you are making changes to suit that source which will lead to questioning the credibility of the story and publication. So keep asking a journalist to see the story beforehand, but always expect the answer to be no. You can also expect to never be called back to interview for future stories.

7. Record Breaking.

When signing on to an interview you agree to have your comments possibly published in a news story. If you plan on breaking interview records, by reciting “off the the record” continuously throughout the interview, don’t agree to the interview. Make it easy on yourself by either declining the interview or refraining from saying something you don’t wish to be published. Otherwise, you will be labeled a PIA (Pain in Ass) to journalists, and see less press time in the future.

8. Sugarcoated Bribery.

Offering to give a free massage or payment of some kind in exchange for favorable coverage of the issue on your part  is not wise practice. Not only is it unethical practice for a writer to partake in, it will be a waste of time and money for you because good writers won’t buy into it. They’ll also remember that you try to manipulate through bribery and will refrain from interviewing you again.

Do any of the above practices and expect to be placed on a journalist’s personal “Do Not Call List”. Do what you can to make the journalist’s job as easy as possible and you will forever be in our good graces.

What other faux pas should sources avoid?

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