How to deal with journalists

Research communication officer Evelina Lindén at the School of Economics and Management encouraged journalists to use their moral compass and be careful to give credit where it is due when interviewing researchers – in reference to a case in which SVT had assumed credit for a documentary. Here she points out what researchers themselves can do to avoid the culture clash between media and academia.

Evelina Lindén

Evelina Lindén, research communication officer at the School of Economics and Management, has worked in communication for ten years and before that as a journalist for an equal amount of time. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Five tips for researchers in their encounters with the media

See journalists and researchers as the dream team they are.
As a researcher, you have the overview of your subject, you know the methodology, and own a potentially good story – which in turn has a much greater chance of reaching a broad audience if it is told by an expert in the craft of journalism. These two professional skills can become an unbeatable combination.

Realise that the journalist has completely different working conditions.
While you have months, perhaps even years to complete a study, the journalist rarely has as much as a week, sometimes not even a whole day. You are an expert, whereas the journalist’s job is to know a little about many things. Never consider the journalist as stupid. He or she merely works in a completely different way from you. If need be, use a communication officer to bridge the gap!

Compile a popular science publication list.
In general, journalists do not read doctoral theses – for the simple reason that they don’t have time. But never decline a journalist on those grounds. Instead: make sure you publish in popular science form! Then someone googling your name will get a quick sense of who you are, what you do, what you know. The outcome will be that the requests you receive will be increasingly relevant.

Increase your chances of citation and funding.
Researchers who appear in news media also tend to be cited more often by their fellow researchers. And those that are cited have greater chances of receiving research grants. So you can actually benefit financially by becoming a bit more media-savvy.

Ask to see the text in advance.
Even when things move fast, make it a habit to request a chance to review what the journalist has written before it is published. Promise them you will be quick, and keep the promise. But ration the red pen: concentrate on your verbatim quotes, where the journalist is reporting what you said.