Five Rules for Dealing with the Media

Advice for AAUP chapters.
By Greg Loving and Jeff Cramerding

AAUP chapters need to get their messages out in the media now more than ever. Media messaging does not come naturally to professors, however; academic training is poor preparation for communicating with the media.

From the founding of Harvard University in 1636 through the land-grant movement of the mid-1800s and the development of modern research institutions early in the twentieth century, American higher education has served a small minority of the population for most of its history. As spaces of elite education, colleges and universities had the luxury of operating independently, and the professorial mindset is still shaped by this sense of independence. Professors resist “meddling” by what they see as outside forces lacking the expertise to make informed decisions. They see it as their job to seek knowledge and to critique society, not to be critiqued by society.

The situation in which professors work, however, has changed radically over the past few decades. The democratic impulse, always present even in the elitist model of higher education, grew into full-blown populism following developments such as the post–World War II GI Bill and the Higher Education Act of 1965. More of the population has pursued a college degree as higher education has become the price of admission to middle-class employment. As more tax dollars have flowed to higher education through direct aid or student loans, the growing constituencies of higher education have sought greater input and oversight. State legislatures, chambers of commerce, licensing boards, federal agencies, companies, and civic groups all have legitimate interests in how higher education operates.

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Greg Loving is associate professor of philosophy at University of Cincinnati Clermont College and president of the UC AAUP chapter. His academic background is in philosophy of religion, and his recent research interests include the history of higher education and the psychology of pedagogy. His e-mail address is greg.loving@uc.edu. Jeff Cramerding serves as director of contract administration and communications at AAUP-UC and is a member of the bar in Ohio. Before joining the AAUP-UC, Cramerding served as the principal of a communications and government affairs agency. His e-mail address is jeff.cramerding@uc.edu.

Comments

   I have serious misgivings about this article. I have no doubt that the advice on dealing with the media is sound if we are willing to accept  that faculty leaders or other spokespersons must become talking heads when addressing the public. We must at least object that the advice to endlessly parrot talking points ( Rule 2 ) and to never answer questions that diverge from these points ( Rule 5 ) flies in the face of what the professoriat stands for. We can't expect our chapter presidents to have the media savvy or wit of a Jon Stewart but we should not ask them ( or others ) to go quietly into the simple minded night. I should think our colleagues in Communication could help our spokespersons find a middle ground. I also think that the public is getting sick of such insulting treatment.
                                                          Norm Wallen, Emeritus Professor, San Francisco State University 

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