Tuesday, August 25, 2009

DIY: dealing with the Press

Sometimes, things at church get messy -- messy enough to attract the attention of local news media.

So what do you do when a TV reporter sticks a microphone in your face and says, "What do you know and when did you know it?"

Some time ago, I attended a workshop on that topic by the Reverend Chilton Knudsen. She's since gone on to be the Episcopal Bishop for Maine -- but at the time she was the Pastoral Care Officer for the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Chicago . . . and that meant she had to deal with the Press when a pastor really fouled-up. Here's her advice:

1. Never say anything you don't want quoted. There's no such thing as "off the record," ever.

2. Never say "no comment." If nothing else, you can always say, "We are very concerned -- and obviously, we're taking this very seriously . . . but we can't say more at this time for legal reasons."

3. Never reveal the names of the people who brought this to your attention. Don't even give a vague description, like "the complaint came from a teen-age girl who attends our school."

4. Never let just anyone and everyone talk to the media. Pick one spokesperson (or one spokesperson and a back-up) -- and remind everyone else they may be a legal risk if they give interviews (or even just a quote).

Bonus advice (and this is from me): Keep a written log of what happens and when -- and update the Conference office anytime something new develops.

No comments: