The Office of News and Public Information, which is within the Advancement and University Relations Division, has primary responsibility for media relations at the University of Mary Washington. The responsibilities includes publicizing the University in the media, finding faculty members to comment as expert resources, and coordinating and/or responding to matters related to crisis or emergencies. When public comment on behalf of the university is requested, an appropriate spokesperson will be identified by the Associate Vice President for University Relations, in cooperation with the Vice President for Advancement and University Relations and the President. No one may speak on behalf of the university nor interpret university policy unless designated as a spokesperson.
(See also the UMW Guide to Working with the Media.)
Faculty and Staff Response to Media Calls
When faculty and staff members are asked to comment or provide information on an institutional question or an issue that relates to the entire institution, the reporter should be referred to the Office of News and Public Information. The staff will refer the reporter to the appropriate source for comment.
When a member of the news media contacts a faculty or staff member to comment on a topic that is within an employee’s area of expertise (e.g., about a faculty member’s academic research or area of academic specialization), the employee may answer questions immediately, if so desired. However, if the faculty or staff member prefers to give some thought to the questions before answering, or if she/he has questions about the interview and how to respond, the News and Public Information office recommends the employee take the reporter’s telephone number, inquire about the reporter’s deadline, and return the call later. Faculty or staff faced with this situation may then contact the News and Public Information office at (540) 654-1055. A member of the staff will be glad to share information about the reporter, the angle the story is likely to take, other stories the reporter may be researching or writing at the time, and any other background information that may be helpful in advance of the interview. While media representatives often work under deadlines, they sometimes can email questions in advance, and a few may be willing to read direct quotes back to a source.
While it is optional for a faculty or staff member to contact the Office of News and Public Information prior to talking with a reporter about the employee’s area of expertise, it is very important that the News and Public Information office be notified immediately after the faculty or staff member has spoken with a reporter. Staff members monitor and track the progress of all UMW-related stories in order to help reporters find sources and gather facts. Knowing to whom a reporter has talked will assist in the tracking process, and it allows the office to provide the reporter with all pertinent information. In addition, an archive of published news stories about the University of Mary Washington is maintained by the News and Public Information office, and daily news articles are sent to members of the Board of Visitors and other key groups.
FOIA and FERPA
As a state institution, the University of Mary Washington is governed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and certain information must be provided to anyone who asks, including members of the public and the news media. However, as an institution of higher education, the University also is governed by federal and state laws that limit the type of information that can be divulged about students and employees. For example, the Buckley Amendment (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA) does not allow University employees to release information concerning current or former students without the student’s express permission.
The News and Public Information staff participates in annual training sessions led by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office about the state’s FOIA and also stays current with changes in relevant federal laws. Personnel in the office are available to consult with faculty and staff members should the news media seek information about individual students or employees, or if they have questions about information that can or cannot be released.
All requests for personnel and University-related information utilizing provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act are requested in writing and must be directed to the Office of News and Public Information. Requests from the news media will be researched and answered by the staff. Requests for information from non-media sources will be logged by News and Public Information and referred to the appropriate University office for timely response and resolution. The University must respond to the requester within five workdays of its receiving the FOIA request.
Through the Information Hotline, the News and Public Information office provides recorded information about weather-related and other emergency closings or delayed-opening information. The hotline can be accessed by calling (540) 654-2424. The hotline message is updated by 6 a.m. on days when University officials have made a decision to close the University or to delay its opening. If a decision is made during the evening hours, the hotline will be updated as soon as the information is available.
In addition to the University’s hotline, area radio and television stations will carry UMW closing information and should be relied upon whenever the hotline may be busy or out of service. The following stations will carry change-of-schedule information: Fredericksburg: WFLS 93.3-FM, WYSK 1350-AM, WYSK 99.3 WWUZ 96.9; WFVA 1230-AM, WBQB 101.5-FM, WGRQ-FM 95.9-FM and WGRX 104.5 FM. Richmond: WWBT-TV News Channel 12, WTVR-TV Channel 6 and WRNL 910-AM, WRIC-TV 8, WCVE 88.9 FM, Northern Virginia: WTOP 1500-AM, 107.7-FM, WAVA 105.1-FM, WTTG-DC-TV Channel 5, WRC-TV Channel 4, WJLA Channel 7 and News Channel 8, and WUSA-TV Channel 9. In addition, the information is posted on the UMW homepage through the Campus Advisories link.
Media Resource Guide
The Office of University Relations is responsible for connecting the news media (radio, newspaper, television, magazine, Web, etc.) with knowledgeable faculty sources. The faculty members listed in our Media Resource Guide have agreed to be available for such interviews. Faculty members are encouraged to consider being listed in the Media Resource Guide.
Op-ed essays are written by experts and published on the page opposite or near the editorial page in newspapers. Publication of op-eds written by faculty can call attention to the quality of UMW faculty and indirectly acknowledge the quality of the academic program. These articles cast a valuable spotlight on faculty expertise and their ability to articulate strong opinions held on timely topics. The Office of News and Public Information assists faculty in placing op-ed articles in local, statewide, and national newspapers. Regularly working with op-ed editors, the News and Public Information staff remains up-to-date on current trends in editorial newsrooms and has current contact information for the major op-ed editors.
Op-eds appear in general-circulation newspapers and are designed for all audiences. The writing level of an op-ed page may be slightly above that of news pages, but not much higher. News and Public Information staff can assist faculty by providing editing advice and information about journalistic style. Op-eds need to follow the Associated Press Stylebook and accepted journalistic writing practices, which are different from the requirements of academic journals. The News and Public Information staff also can be helpful in suggesting topics, narrowing a topic, editing, rewriting and other areas.
Faculty who are interested in writing op-eds are encouraged to contact the Assistant Director of News and Public Information at (540) 654-1055.
Calendar listings are prepared for all public events held on campus. Information and photos for calendar entries should be submitted as soon as the event details are firm in order to meet print media deadlines for larger publications and magazines. Information for the Calendar of Events may be sent by campus mail to the Office of News and Public Information or by email to mmorris3 at umw.edu.
News and Public Information Staff
The members of the University Relations staff who work on media relations include:
Director of News and Public Information
Eagle Village Executive Offices, Suite 300
Assistant Director of News and Public Information
Eagle Village Executive Offices, Suite 300
In addition, all media relations having to do with the NCAA Division III athletics program at UMW is handled by the Sports Information Office:
Clint Often, Director