Donovan Group Insights

Media Interviews

One of the more stressful things for school and district leaders is working with the media. Media relations can be especially challenging because most of us struggle with speaking in a way that translates well to a newspaper quote: we generally do not speak in sound bites.

When working with reporters, it’s important to understand the rules of the interview.


If you say to the reporter that your following comments are “on the record,” it means that you are giving permission for your comments to be quoted.

If you say that your next comments are “on background,” it means you are providing information that can be attributed to you, but you will not be quoted directly.

Any good reporter will know and follow these rules.

Here is a tip: It is often easier for school leaders to speak “on background” when sharing necessary information so the news story will be correct. Speaking “on background” means that you can speak more freely since you are not being quoted verbatim.

Keep in mind, however, that you should never say anything to a reporter that you do not want in the news story.

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