Research Engagement and ImpactTips from a first time interviewee
In our ongoing series around Engagement and Impact, we change tact from the focus on one-on-one/direct engagement with communities to the impact of getting one's research out via the media. Dr David Armstrong, Lecturer in Teacher Education: Special Education, was recently interviewed by Radio Adelaide on the final report from the South Australian Parliamentary Select Committee into Access to the Education System for Students with Disabilities. His interview can be heard on the Radio Adelaide site. The Research Services Office approached David to share his experience on being interviewed by the media. Below is the interview we conducted with David.
How do you go about getting an interview?
Journalists from the media typically contact me for comment on a news story or to request a written submission about an issue. It’s important, I think, to have a strategy for developing your media profile as a researcher. My strategy has been to be available for ongoing comment in my areas of research (special and inclusive education, mental health in schools, dyslexia) to SA outlets (Adelaide Advertiser; local radio, InDaily) but with a view to establish myself interstate as a stepping stone to access to the national media. This is starting to pay off with radio interviews for interstate outlets and contact with national print media.
Were you contacted first?
Colleagues very kindly forwarded my name to local journalists if the enquiry was in my area. I have reciprocated. It’s important to work as a team in sharing opportunities.
What assistance did you get beforehand?
When I came to Flinders I had assistance from the excellent Flinders education journalist (Tania Bawden) who facilitated interviews. In the past I led a funded education initiative (European Social Fund) with the homeless and in association with a major charity.
This initiative was innovative and high-profile, so the local and national media/celebrities/politicians were in contact on a regular basis. HRH Prince Charles visited, for example, and we spoke with the media present, so I am probably unusual in the amount of experience I have had in this respect. Interviews on the Radio and on TV require a different skillset from writing articles for the print media. I would recommend asking for assistance and advice from the Office of Communication and Engagement for anybody who is asked to appear in TV or undertake a radio interview and if it’s their first time.
Did you seek any out?
Yes, I have sought out journalists and taken a proactive approach. Registering for The Conversation is necessary – if you wish to write for it. I have recently had success engaging with politically influential state stakeholders in my field and by using Twitter but this needs to be carefully planned and executed.
What was the overall experience like?
It’s been positive and exciting. I enjoy communicating my research and saying why it’s designed to help improve the lives of children or young people with disabilities.
One important new organisation which has helped me is the Media Centre for Education Research Australia (MCERA): they have facilitated contact with the media so that it seems a less random and more positive experience.
What challenges were there?
A phone call will arrive when I have just arrived home or when I am in the middle of a meeting. If you don’t pick up the call often the journalist will ring another contact and you won’t be asked for comment or a story. If you pick up the phone you have an opportunity: you can help dispel myths; communicate key findings of your important research; and share knowledge with the community. The only other problem is that this takes time away from the everyday demands of the job (teaching, research etc.) so it’s important to find balance in media engagement.
The RSO thanks David for his time in sharing this information with the Flinders community.
Where to go if you are contacted by the media?
The Office of Communication and Engagement at Flinders offers media training in group and one-on-one sessions.
Registration with the Australian Science and Media Centre is encouraged. They provide training and advice and are very helpful in gaining access to mainstream media coverage.
Science Media Savvy provides some excellent top tips for researchers.
The Conversation has experienced journalists and editors who can provide assistance and advice to those wanting to start out or improve their writing communication skills in respect to print media. Flinders is a supporter of The Conversation and encourages our academics to get involved.