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Media Guidelines

Working with Reporters

Here are some tips to help you get ready for and respond to a reporter’s questions. REMEMBER: You can always contact USC Leonard Davis Communications for immediate help.

Gather basic details

  • Write down the reporter’s name, media outlet, phone number and story deadline.
  • Ask what the story will be about and how the interview will be used.
  • If  TV or radio is calling, inquire about the interview format (live, taped, etc.).
  • If you’re the appropriate expert but aren’t prepared to talk, set a later time, but respect the reporter’s deadline. Even 15 minutes will help you get ready.

If you’re not the best expert, refer the reporter to someone who is or direct them to the USC Leonard Davis Communications Office.

Prepare for the interview

  • Take a few minutes to write down the brief message(s) you want to convey:
    • What does the lay public need to know?
    • Why should they care? Will this make a difference in people’s lives?
    • Any misconceptions in the public’s mind that you need to overcome or dispel?
    • What’s the ultimate goal of your research?
    • Add one or two “power facts”– numbers, tidbits, examples people didn’t know to support your message.
    • Anticipate tough questions you may be asked and rehearse your answers
  • Avoid technical jargon, use lay terms.
  • Make sure your points are clear and succinct.
  • Be ready to support your message with a few examples and facts.
  • Keep in mind what the public needs to know, and how the topic impacts people’s lives
  • Anticipate tough questions the reporter might ask.
  • Practice delivering your message(s).

Speak with authority, clarity and energy

  • Offer brief background on the subject at hand if the reporter seems to need it.
  • Assume everything you say is on the record, from the time you meet or talk with the reporter until he or she leaves the room or hangs up.
  • Speak with authority and energy, particularly for TV or radio interviews.
  • State your position in positive terms, even if a reporter’s questions turn negative or sound loaded.
  • If the reporter’s questions veer off track, politely steers the interview back to your message(s).
  • If you’re not sure the reporter understood your main points, ask him or her to repeat them.

USC Experts Directory

The USC Experts Directory is a collection of faculty profiles that allows journalists to quickly find an appropriate source for a story based on the faculty member’s listed expertise. To add or update your Experts Directory profile, visit (USC login required).

When creating our updating your profile:

  • Explain your expertise in lay, jargon-free terms
  • List every language that you are comfortable using in an interview
  • Make sure your contact information is current and can be used to reach you quickly

If you have any questions or want suggestions for your profile, please contact USC Leonard Davis Communications.

Preparing an Op-Ed Column

Another way to share your expertise with the public is writing an op-ed column and submitting it to news outlets. The USC Leonard Davis Communications Office can help with the preparation, timing and pitching of these pieces as well as connect faculty opinion authors with consultants who specialize in op-eds.

Op-Ed Resources

Using Social Media

If you are communicating on behalf of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and the university, here are a few guidelines to consider ensuring a positive interaction for everyone who participates in your online community. These guidelines can be applied when commenting about your work in external online conversations.

  • Know the rules.
    Become familiar with Facebook and Twitter’s terms of service and policies and pay attention to updates.
  • Maintain confidentiality.
    Do not post confidential or proprietary information about USC or USC Leonard Davis, its students, faculty or staff. Use good ethical judgment and follow university policies and federal requirements.
  • Maintain privacy.
    Do not discuss a situation involving named or pictured individuals on a social media site without their permission. As a guideline, do not post anything that you would not present in any public forum.
  • Think before you post.
    There’s no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up posts and pictures years after the publication date. Post only information and pictures that you would be comfortable sharing with the general public (current and future peers, employers, etc.).
  • Understand your personal responsibility.
    USC Leonard Davis staff and faculty are personally responsible for the content they publish on blogs, wikis or any other form of user-generated content. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time — protect your privacy and the privacy of others.
  • Respect your audience.
    Do not engage in use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in the USC Leonard Davis community.
  • Monitor comments.
    If you see something in a school social media channel that concerns you, please contact USC Communications. Monitoring comments allows for timely responses and an opportunity to delete spam comments and to block any individuals who repeatedly post offensive, threatening or frivolous comments.
  • Identify yourself.
    If you are commenting about stories regarding your own or other USC Leonard Davis work, clearly identify who you are and remain objective.


Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created and edited by volunteers around the world. Several USC Leonard Davis faculty members and their research areas are currently represented on Wikipedia.

You should not directly edit an article if you have a conflict of interest, especially if it’s in the interest of your employer. The best practice is to fully disclose who you are and leave a message on the talk page requesting the edit desired. There are a number of “uncontroversial” edits that are generally accepted, like facts and figures that are cited firmly from reliable sources.

This article contains valuable information on editing Wikipedia as an academic:
“Ten Simple Rules for Editing Wikipedia” – PLOS Computational Biology, September 30, 2010

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