Quinnipiac University’s intercollegiate athletic teams generate a high level of public interest and media coverage. The Department of Athletics and Recreation is aware that its image affects the reputation of the entire University and urges you to always be cooperative, yet exercise care when making statements to the media. The department has an open policy of allowing any student-athlete to express him or herself to the media. Therefore, it is expected that you repay this trust by using good judgment in the statements you make. In general, when speaking to the media be confident, courteous, and prompt. Do not hesitate to say, “I’d rather not discuss a topic,” and avoid discussing any complaints or criticisms you have to the media.
The main way you will deal with the media is through interviews. Most interview topics are about your team and you. Interviews should be looked at as part of the educational experience offered at Quinnipiac, helping you develop communication skills that can assist you not only in the classroom but in future professional and business careers.
Interviews can be a very valuable part of a student-athlete’s life at Quinnipiac. They can serve as a great learning and growing experience for you. As a freshman, you may be nervous about speaking to media representatives. However, by the time you graduate, you will have become relaxed, confident, and articulate. This growth and personal confidence can be carried with you throughout your life. The more interviews you do, the better you will become at handling them and the more fun they will be.
We encourage you to make yourself available to the media, especially because student athletes have been tremendous representatives of Quinnipiac University. We ask the media to direct all interview requests through the sports information office. You should never agree to any interview unless the arrangements are coordinated through the Quinnipiac Sports Information Office. Never give your phone number out to the media. These rules were established in an effort to reduce disruptions to your schedule and also to avoid having someone contact you who may attempt to gain information for other purposes outside of media information. If you receive an interview request, ask the media representative to make arrangements through the Quinnipiac Sports Information Office. We will contact you and work around your athletic, academic and social schedules. You’ll be asked to come to the sports information office, or meet prior to or following a practice at an appropriate location, at an agreed-upon time to be interviewed in person or to conduct a phone interview. In addition, following the conclusion of games, coaches and athletes are expected to make themselves available for interviews within a reasonable period of time (generally after a 10-minute "cooling off" period). These post-game interviews occur in various forms: a press conference in front of a group of media, a one-on-one interview with a reporter, or a live interview on radio or TV.
View the media as friends, not adversaries. Organize your thoughts before a scheduled interview. Often a comment that seems innocent looks different when reported in the media.
On rare occasions, the general tone of the interview may be such that you may not be comfortable continuing the interview. Should this occur, excuse yourself, then notify the Media Relations Office. The longer you are on a team, the more likely it becomes that you will develop a personal relationship with some of the media representatives regularly covering your team. While we encourage these relationships, remember that regardless of what is said, a reporter’s first obligation is to report the news. Do not say it if you do not want to see it in print or hear it on radio or TV. You have many more opportunities to deal with the media than other students at the University. Because media interviews may be a new area of responsibility for many student-athletes, the following tips may help you to know your rights and responsibilities when dealing with the media:
- Pause before speaking. While it is never wise to keep the media waiting for any extended period of time, an athlete has a right to pause before speaking. Practice saying, “I’d like to think for a moment before answering your question.”
- Do not feel obligated to answer every question. Not every question can or should be answered. Often, for whatever reason, an athlete has no answer to a question. Practice saying, “For some reason, I can’t come up with an answer to your question.” In the face of loaded and unclear questions that fail to provide fair options, the athlete has a right not to answer. Practice saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t think I can answer your question” or “I don’t understand what you are asking.” After telling a reporter that a question cannot be answered, nothing else needs to be said.
- Be prepared to provide an opening statement. An athlete has the right to begin every question-and-answer session with an opening comment. This allows for the introduction of important ideas, feelings and perceptions that the athlete wants understood. Information of this type sets the tone for the interview. It sets the agenda and previews subjects the media might want to probe. Practice saying, “Before I answer any questions, I would like to say...”
- Call reporters by name. It is a matter of common courtesy to refer to a reporter by his or her name. Such a practice personalizes comments by emphasizing that a relationship exists between the athlete and the reporter. Such a practice is a right, not a responsibility. Many athletes may not know names or feel comfortable in this role.
- Show appropriate emotions for the circumstances. After a difficult game or practice, an athlete has a right not to smile and appear happy. No athlete is expected to enjoy talking about a loss, a disappointing performance, or not playing. Learning is not always a happy task. At the same time, frowns, sarcasm, and mean looks never add anything positive to an answer.
- Select and employ your own words. Just because a reporter selects certain words does not mean those same words have to be repeated in an answer. An athlete is never obligated to answer a question using someone else’s words. Athletes have a right to select their own words to explain thoughts and feelings. Unclear, offensive words and negative language should never be repeated or included as part of an answer.
- Defer certain questions to other people. In media interviews, an athlete should never speak for someone else. Certain questions are best answered by other people. In this type of situation, an athlete has a right not to comment on things outside personal experience, knowledge, and expertise. Defer all third-party questions to other people. Practice saying, “Maybe you should ask Jimmy that question” or “I wasn’t on the field when that happened; you need to ask someone who was” or “You’ll have to ask Coach.”
- Speak slowly and be yourself. Many questions can be answered quickly. Still, an athlete has a right to answer questions slowly. At the same time, simple words should be selected for usage. These words should be familiar to both athlete and reporter. In addition to translating common-sense principles into clear messages, the athlete is expected to think and communicate along certain lines.
- Never “bad mouth” an opponent or the referees. Nothing is to be gained from saying bad things about an opponent. The public does not like “trash talk.” Most people admire a student-athlete who shows respect for his or her opponent and focuses on his or her team’s performance rather than dwelling negatively on the opponent. Also, any negative comments about officiating will be interpreted by the public as excuses.
- Avoid saying “you know” during an interview. This is perceived by the public as an indication of stupidity. You are not stupid. You are a bright student-athlete. Do not let perceptions cloud reality.
- Be cooperative. Reporters need your comments for stories. If you make yourself available to answer their questions, they will appreciate it because it makes them look more professional.
- Do not be defensive. Attitude is everything. Stay calm; remain in control in all situations.
- Think before you answer. Reporters are often in a hurry because of deadline pressures. Do not feel rushed or goaded into giving quick answers. Speak clearly with the proper rhythm. Avoid clichés.
- Listen to the question carefully. Make sure you understand the question before you answer. If you do not understand, ask for clarification or have the interviewer repeat the entire question.
- Personal appearance counts. Maintain good eye contact with the reporter and do not worry about the camera. Keep your voice strong and animated. Also, dress appropriately.
- Say “Thanks.” Your final actions in the interview may leave the strongest impression with the reporter. Make every encounter a memorable one – chances are you will receive more favorable stories in the future.
- Act ethically. Never lie to a reporter. It is unethical for an athlete to be untruthful with members of the media. An athlete should always answer questions honestly. Beyond this, the athlete is under no obligation to volunteer additional information.
- Provide short answers. Short and simple answers are the best. They are easy to quote. Answers with a central theme that is clear can prevent an athlete from rambling for minutes. When answers drag on, the likelihood increases of being misquoted, words or phrases taken out of context or saying something that was not intended for the media. Adhere to the 25-second rule in media interviews. Effective interviewees answer in sixty words or less. They employ language that is clear, direct, and constructive, all set to a deadline. Their answers reflect a singular viewpoint and maintain consistent reasoning while avoiding contradictory information.
- Say what you mean at the beginning of an answer. Audiences normally remember the first thing said, not the last. Deductive patterns of arrangement are mandated during media interviews. They are the signature of an effective communicator. Here, key ideas are placed at the beginning of each answer where they appear isolated. Details are presented only when there is need, interest, and time. It is wise to speak to a set number of points. Normally, no more than three points should be stressed during any answer. It is important to remember that straightforward questions deserve straight-to-the-point answers.
- Avoid jargon. Effective communicators speak English and not sports-specific terms. Whenever possible, stay conversational. Avoid highly specialized language few people living outside the white lines understand. If jargon is used, be willing to explain it.
- Practice modesty in victory and self-control in defeat. In victory and defeat, the good communicator controls emotions and language.
- Never speak “off the record.” This type of statement can be interpreted as an open admission that the athlete is not always open and honest with people. Athletes who attempt to speak in private tones appear to be dishonest and manipulative. Besides, there are no such things as “off-the-record” comments. Sooner or later, restricted information will be reported by the media and become a matter of public record.
- Never say, “No comment.” No comment is a poor answer. This type of statement can create suspicion and mistrust in the minds of the audience. If an athlete has nothing to say, no answer should be forthcoming. Simply say, “I’d rather discuss something else.” If the reporter persists, politely end the interview.
- Never joke with a reporter. While questions may appear funny, answers should always be serious. The tendency to joke or match wits with a reporter is an open invitation to trouble. An athlete never knows how an answer will appear in print or sound on the evening news.
- Keep your cool. Athletes should never feel intimidated by cameras, bright lights, tape recorders or microphones being pushed into their faces, being interrupted, differences in opinions, offensive language, stupid or accusatorial questions, statements of so-called facts, or reporters leaving in the middle of an answer. They should “keep their cool” when pressure mounts. On a different subject, question-and-answer sessions are not the time to get angry, argue, attack the officials, question a coach, or joke and display humor.
- Act professional at all times. Whenever possible, concentrate on being the “good guy” who is above pettiness and unprofessional behavior. Such a pose builds integrity and enhances credibility in the eyes of the audience. Most audiences are sophisticated enough to recognize rudeness in any form.
- Never embarrass a reporter or ridicule a question. If a question is poorly worded or has been asked before, an athlete should be patient. Practice understanding. Attempt to understand why the question is being asked and answer the best you can. It is never wise to point out the limitations of a question.
- Do not spend too much time talking about a negative or a loss. Negative comments make headlines. Audiences assimilate and remember negative information more accurately than positive information. Whenever possible, share positive accounts and information. Therefore, when the game ends, an athlete should be encouraged to direct attention to (a) communicating the progress made and (b) the job of the team in the coming days. Words will never change the score or alter a game performance. Whenever possible, voice optimism with regard to the future.
- Be alert to reporters’ needs. It is always a good practice for athletes to look at reporters, measure their response, and adjust accordingly. For example, if they appear to be having problems writing down answers, speak more slowly. When reporters shake their heads, frown, appear frustrated, it might be best to repeat key words to ensure accuracy.
- Support teammates and your school. Honor the natural bonds that exist in relationships. You should respect and always support your teammates. Remain sensitive and never make negative remarks regarding others’ performances. Finally, never appear on camera wearing another team’s letters, logo, or colors. It may be an accepted practice, but it is in bad taste. Pride is expected and is demonstrated through the way an athlete speaks and appears in public.