Workshop for media stress

Feb 06, 2003, vol. 26, no. 3
By Stuart Colcleugh

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Ever notice how only a handful of SFU experts are regularly quoted or featured in the news media, while other newsworthy candidates get almost no attention?

“That's true,” says media and public relations (MPR) staffer Julie Ovenell-Carter. “The problem is, many of our faculty and staff have exciting stories to tell and a wealth of expertise to share, but they're either terrified of talking to the press or they've tried it and had a bad encounter.”

Luckily, it's a problem that can be easily overcome, says Ovenell-Carter, who conducts faculty and staff media training workshops on behalf of her department, with technical assistance from the learning instructional development centre (LIDC).

Give her just two mornings of your time, she says, and you might actually come to enjoy the experience. But, more importantly, “you'll develop the skills and the confidence you need to capitalize on media opportunities rather than fear them.”

“It's an excellent program,” says Blaize Reich, associate dean of business administration and a recent workshop attendee. “It really increased my awareness of the media process so I'm able to be part of it without getting nailed. Plus it's a lot of fun.”

Fellow participant Randall Martin was blindsided by a reporter a while back “and it could have had serious repercussions for the university,” says the director of SFU international. “Now, hopefully, I have the tools to avoid similar situations in the future.”

During their first morning, participants learn how different news organizations work, how to work with them and how media and public relations staff can help. As a working journalist when not job sharing at SFU, Ovenell-Carter draws on 17 years experience to cover topics like effective interview techniques, handling ambush questions and getting your message across clearly.

Participants record mock television interviews with Ovenell-Carter during their second session and then receive peer feedback on their performance. “I think the whole room learned something more with each interview,” says Reich.

The media can be a challenge, says Mark Leier, director of SFU's centre for labour studies and another workshop alumnus. “But I believe we all have a responsibility to give some of what the university produces back to the public.”

Contact LIDC's Christine Kurbis ( to register for an upcoming workshop.

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