Media Policy Guidelines

 
  • Table of Contents
  • 100.00 Policy
  • 200.00 General Procedures For Dealing With Media
  • 300.00 Campus Emergency / Crisis
  • 400.00 Contact Information: MSU Media Specialists
  • 500.00 Submit Media Reports
 

Effective communications with the media are critical to MSU's ability to carry out its land grant mission and promote continued public support for the university. Effective media relations best serve the university by:

  • informing the public of what we can do for them
  • promoting the university's achievements, activities and events of significance
  • expanding the general visibility of the university
  • ensuring that accurate information is conveyed to the public regarding incidents and issues of a controversial and/or sensitive nature.

100.00 Policy

The executive director of University Communications serves as the official university spokesperson and conveys the official university position on issues of general university-wide impact or significance or situations that are of a particularly controversial or sensitive nature. Inquiries from the media about such issues should be referred to the executive director of University Communications.

Depending on the specific circumstances, the president or the executive director of University Communications may designate another university administrator to serve as spokesperson on a particular issue.

In cases of critical significance to the university, the executive director of University Communications will work with other university officials to develop a "position paper" to detail the known facts of the situation and summarize the university's position.

In the event of a crisis or emergency situation, the executive director of University Communications will handle all contacts with the media, and will coordinate the information flow from the university to the public. In such situations, all campus departments should refer calls from the media to University Communications.


200.00 General Procedures For Dealing With The Media

Members of the faculty and staff are free to respond to requests from the media regarding their research, scholarship, teaching or professional expertise. In such cases, the appropriate MSU media specialist should be notified as soon as possible to inform him/her of the contact. Such notification can be particularly important if follow-up inquiries are made with other university personnel to ensure a coordinated, consistent university response. Media inquiries should be referred to the executive director of University Communications if they involve issues with university-wide significance and/or are of a controversial or sensitive nature.

The MSU News Group consists of media specialists from the following areas: general university, research and creative activity, agriculture and extension, and athletics. The media specialists promote the university through press releases regarding special accomplishments, events and activities, programs and plans. All releases intended for off-campus or external audiences should be routed through the appropriate media specialist.

Since positive media solicitation is an integral element of the university's communications program, any ideas for articles or pieces that would positively portray the university, its work or its community should also be directed to the appropriate media specialist. In a similar manner University Communications should be notified about negative occurrences that are likely to rise to the level of a news story.

Guidelines for communicating with the media when the issue is non-controversial and limited to the faculty/staff member's area of expertise:

  • Obtain the name of the person calling, the media organization and, if available, the anticipated time of release of information in print or broadcast. This information should be included when the notification is made to the appropriate media specialist.
  • The best approach with the media is to be prompt, helpful and honest. All contacts from the media should be returned as soon as possible, in deference to reporters' deadlines. At the most, a call should be returned within a half-day. If that is not possible, an alternate employee (if appropriate) or the media specialist should be asked to handle the call.
  • Make sure you understand each question from the media before answering. If you cannot answer the question, or are uncomfortable providing a response, take the reporter's number and advise him/her that someone who can provide the information will contact him/her as soon as possible. Then follow-up by contacting the appropriate media specialist or the executive director of University Communications.
  • Do not offer speculations or gossip. Do not answer a reporter's question with "no comment." Do not be condescending or underestimate the reporter's intelligence, but make sure the reporter understands your responses. Provide your phone number and/or e-mail address for follow-up questions.
  • Remember that in responding to the media, you can be seen as representing and speaking for the university. Personal opinions should be clearly and carefully identified as such.
  • Issues that should not be discussed with reporters are 1) legal issues, 2) personnel issues, 3) questions that involve university integrity, such as ethics or issues that may result in harm to others, or 4) a campus crisis or emergency. Refer all such inquiries to the executive director of University Communications.
  • Any media inquiries that involve information about specific students should be directed to the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. Such inquiries will be handled in strict compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA.) This federal law protects the confidentiality of a student's education record. Information that may be given includes information found in a directory: the student's full name, local address and phone number, dates of attendance and degrees, honors and certificates received, class level (e.g. freshman), and academic major(s). Grades may only be provided to the media if a student wishes to release the information in connection with an award or scholarship.
  • Any media inquiries regarding MSU faculty or staff should be referred to the office of Personnel and Payroll Services. Only public information may be provided without the employee's written approval. Public information is the following: verification of employment, name of job title/position, full or part-time status, name of department, department address and phone number, employment starting date, salary/grade, rank.

300.00 Campus Emergency / Crisis

Crisis communications have a lasting impact on institutional reputation and public support. How well we convey our message to the public greatly depends on what is reported to the news media. This is especially true in a crisis, during which the news media is the primary means of communication to our constituencies. Because of the emotions that usually accompany crises, images formed from crisis reporting are especially important in shaping long-lasting public impressions of the institution.

In the event of a major crisis on campus, it is essential that an effective communications plan be put into effect to disseminate timely, accurate information and to ensure that inquiries are routed to the appropriate sources.

The executive director of University Communications is responsible for the development and dissemination of all university communications in the event of a campus emergency. This includes internal communications with students, faculty and staff, as well as communications with the media. The priority will be on maintaining timely and open communications with the media, providing complete and accurate information that has been confirmed about the emergency situation and the university's response to the crisis at hand. Communications with the media will be frequent throughout the duration of the emergency situation. The MSU Web site will be utilized as a key medium for updating our campus community and the public on the details of the emergency situation and actions we are taking to address all related issues.

A media center will be established in the event of a widespread campus incident/disaster. The media center will include workspace for media personnel, electricity, telephones, Internet connections, campus and community directories and maps. A media pool of representatives from print and broadcast media outlets may be appointed to establish rules of conduct for the media.

In a campus emergency faculty, staff and students have a right not to speak with the media. The media has access only to the public areas, which are identified as the Centennial Mall, the Fieldhouse and the stadium. Any situations where individuals feel a reporter has abused their rights should be reported to the executive director of University Communications.

A communication information center may also be established, if a high volume of incoming phone calls are expected.


400.00 Contact Information: MSU Media Specialists

Tom Calcagni -- executive director of University Communications
E-mail: thomas.calcagni@montana.edu
Tel: 994-4571 -- Fax: 994-6822

Tracy Ellig -- Director, MSU News Service
E-mail: tellig@montana.edu
Tel: 994-7371 -- Fax: 994-4102

Carol Schmidt -- Arts, humanities, social services
E-mail: cschmidt@montana.edu
Tel: 994-1966 -- Fax: 994-4102

Evelyn Boswell -- Agriculture, life and physical sciences
E-mail: evelynb@montana.edu
Tel: 994-5135 -- Fax: 994-4102

Melynda Harrison -- Agriculture
E-mail: melynda.harrison@montana.edu
Tel: 994-7371 -- Fax: 994-4102

Anne Cantrell -- Business, nursing, libraries, education health and human development
E-mail: annep@montana.edu
Tel: 994-4902 -- Fax: 994-4102

Kelly Gorham -- Photographer
E-mail: kelly.gorham@montana.edu
Tel: 994-5134 -- Fax: 994-4102

Athletics
Bill Lamberty
E-mail: blamberty@msubobcats.com
Tel: 994-5133 -- Fax: 994-2278

Tom Schulz
E-mail: tschulz@msubobcats.com
Tel: 994-5130 -- Fax: 994-2278


500.00 Submitting Media Report

If you have a media contact you need to discuss, or wish to share details of upcoming events, or positive news stories about the university, please contact Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service director, 994-5607 or tellig@montana.edu