Guidelines for Media Interviews

You have the right to:

  • Say “no” to an interview.
  • Select the spokesperson or advocate of your choice.
  • Select the time and location for media interviews.
  • Request a specific reporter.
  • Refuse an interview with a specific reporter even though you have granted interviews to other reporters.
  • Say “no” to an interview even though you have previously granted interviews.
  • Release a written statement through a spokesperson in lieu of an interview.
  • Exclude children from interviews.
  • Refrain from answering any questions with which you are uncomfortable or that you feel are inappropriate.
  • Know in advance the direction the story about your victimization is going to take.
  • Avoid a press conference atmosphere and speak to only one reporter at a time.
  • Demand a correction when inaccurate information is reported.
  • Ask that offensive photographs or visuals be omitted from broadcast or publication.
  • Conduct a television interview using a silhouette or a newspaper interview without having your photograph taken.
  • Completely give your side of the story related to your victimization.
  • Refrain from answering reporters’ questions during trial.
  • File a formal complaint against a journalist.
  • Grieve in privacy.
  • Suggest training about media and victims for print and electronic media in your community (Seymour and Lowrance 1988, 7-10).

Media Interviews – over the phone

  • If you receive a call from a reporter, always return it – even if you are not able to respond to the question
  • Do NOT accept an immediate request for an interview by phone
  • Ask reporter what he/she wants to know
  • Ask for reporter’s deadline, and call back before deadline
  • Before you call reporter back, write three main points you’d like to make. Reinforce throughout interview
  • State the most important point FIRST because information you convey first is most quoted
  • Use anecdotes or short stories to illustrate points. These are the “quotable quotes”
  • Avoid jargon OR define jargon. Spell, too.
  • Be friendly, be helpful
  • Avoid “no comment.” If you don’t know, offer to find out and call reporter later
  • Assume everything IS on the record. Nothing is “off the record”
  • Ask reporter when story will appear or air
  • Get help for crisis situations as soon as possible
  • When you call a reporter back, especially for radio, assume you will be recorded even if reporter doesn’t tell you.

Media interviews – in person

  • Assume you will be photographed – video or still photos
  • Dress appropriately
  • Clear your schedule, ask staff to avoid interruptions
  • Give reporter your business card. Ask the reporter for the same

Media interviews – on TV

  • Sit up straight.
  • Maintain eye contact with interviewer, NOT the camera – unless told otherwise.
  • Avoid lots of facts and figures. Anecdotes are good.
  • Visuals are helpful – book, Web site, special item
  • Ask when the interview will air (if not live); make arrangements to record it yourself

A brochure published by the National Center for Victims of Crime in 1987 entitled Victims’ Rights and the Media offers valuable guidelines to crime victims whose cases are covered by print and broadcast news media. While the “rights” enumerated in this brochure are not mandated by statute or policy, they should be considered guiding principles provided by all service providers to crime victims prior to dealing with the news media. (ncjrs.gov)