Simson's guide to dealing with reporters
- Reporters are your friends
Nearly all reporters want to see one thing published: the truth. They want to get as unbiased, as accurate, and as fair a presentation as possible in black-and-white on their pages. Generally, you want the same thing. So, at all times, remember that the reporter is on your side and is trying to do as good a job as possible.
If there is something that you don't want printed, ask yourself why. If it is something you are hiding because it makes you look bad, tell the reporter anyway. It's better to look human than to be caught hiding something. If it isn't germane to the story at hand, it probably won't get printed.
- Know your reporter
Write down the name, phone number, and department of your reporter. Don't ask the name of their editor, but you might want to conversationally ask how long they have been writing for their newspaper and what their ``beat'' is.
- Help the reporter
Reporters are very busy people: make it as easy as possible for them to write their story. Give them the names, titles, and phone numbers. Having everything neatly typed up is always a help. And --- please --- give them the names of people who disagree with you in addition to the people who are on your side. It makes you seem more honest, which is something that reporters like.
- Be Accessible
Give the reporter your home telephone number, and any other number where you might be. Make it very clear how late --- and how early --- the reporter can call you. Remember that reporters frequently need to check facts late at night, before the paper goes to press. You can say things like, ``well, if the paper is about to go to the presses, and you really need clarification, you can wake me up at 2:00 a.m. But only if it is an emergency.''
- Be persistent
If you haven't heard anything from the reporter after two days, call back and ask --- in a friendly tone of voice --- how the story is going. Ask the reporter if he or she is having problems with anything.
- Don't offer to review the story with the reporter
Most reporters do not take kindly to the idea of having ``a source'' read over the article before it is published. One reason is because stories often get changed in editing, and it is a hassle to review every change with the source.
- Offer to review your quotes verbally with the reporter
Ask the reporter to call you up, before the article is published, and read you back everything that is attributed to you ``inside quotation marks.'' You can't require this, but offer. Also offer to ``work over the quotes'' with the reporter, which means to edit the quotes into better English.
- Remember: there's more than one game in town
If you don't like the newspaper you're dealing with, try calling another. In Cambridge, for example, there's the Boston Globe, the Herald, the Cambridge Tab, the Cambridge Chronicle, and the Phoenix. If you think the story has national significance, there's also the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. And don't forget WBUR (National Public Radio).