In “Building Bridges with the press: A guide for educators,” reporter Julie Blair discusses her experiences as a reporter for Education Week and offers ways for educators improve their relationship with the media.
“Over time,” Blair writes, “I’ve come to believe that we in the press haven’t done nearly enough to educate educators about what we do. As a result we’ve unwittingly widened the chasm between schools and the media. . . . My hope is that this book will make clear to school administrators both the obligations and benefits of developing an open and cooperative relationship with the press.”
Schools that dodge reporters frequently get even less press than they desire and potentially a bad reputation, she says, whether or not they are doing a good job educating children. Her message to educators: Let the media in. Deal with us openly and honestly, and let us learn to cover you better by walking your hallways, attending your classes, and talking at length with your students, teachers, and staff.
Often, the first critical step is to build a personal relationship between the schools and the media, she says. This isn’t to say educators need to become best friends with the reporters who cover them, but making regular contact with reporters and even editors can help ensure that journalists better understand how schools work, which will definitely make a difference in how the schools are covered.
Blair offers 13 tips under the rubric: “Meeting the Press: Things to talk about.” Getting together regularly with reporters can be helpful. One place to begin is to ask reporters about their education, their background in education policy, and the types of stories theylike to write or produce. Or begin by explaining how your district’s budget works.
If you’d like to get more positive publicity about your school, highlight the achievement of faculty and tout them as experts on various topics. Introduce reporters to your innovative special education teacher, the band leader who runs the million-dollar fund raiser, and the mathematics instructor who helped write the state curriculum.
Blair offers the caveat: “Make sure you are on the same page regarding open access. Many PR people I’ve come into contact with perceive themselves to be protectors of their school districts. Rather than disseminating news, they work to keep the press out of school business. They don’t return phone calls promptly, dodge questions, answer inadequately, or worse yet, provide inaccurate information. Such an individual can poison your relationship with the press and community.”
Building Bridges with the press: A guide for educators, by Julie Blair. Education Week Press, 2004.