Questions to ask public relations staff when you're covering scientific research

Journalists talk to a variety of sources about scientific research. Different types of sources have different qualifications and can provide different types of information. Here are some considerations and questions when you are interviewing public relations staff in the industry you are covering.

For subject matter expertise, ask:

  • Does this person have academic credentials related to this topic? A client history?

In the interview, ask:

  • Why is this study or topic important (or unimportant)?
  • What evidence is your industry sharing about the study or topic? What is the source of the evidence? (Was it a study or series of studies that the industry funded?)
  • What are the economic stakes from the perspective of your client (employer or funder)? Who might profit from or be harmed by the product, service or practice in question? Who is invested in it?

Taken from Whose Truth? Tools for Smart Science Journalism in the Digital Age, a self-directed course by Elissa Yancey at Poynter NewsU.

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    Vicki Krueger

    Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager.

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