diversity digest Media Watch
next story
previous story
previous issue
campus profiles
topical leader's guide
diversity web

Columns: Understanding Media Terminology
News clips from: CaliforniaNebraskaUtahMaineMissouriWashington, DC

Making Diversity News

Understanding Media Terminology

By understanding the terminology that journalists use, diversity practitioners can be much more effective in their media outreach and avoid misunderstandings with reporters.

A NEWS RELEASE is a two- to four-page report of a newsworthy event. It is written as an article; portions of good news releases often appear in print. A news release should include a contact to call for further information, a headline, a first sentence that grabs the reader, quotes, and background information.

A MEDIA ADVISORY (or MEDIA ALERT) is a one-page dated announcement of an upcoming event that is open to the media. It includes a contact to call for further information, and is sent to assignment editors, reporters, editors, and producers to alert them to an event they should cover.

A STATEMENT is used to respond quickly to a breaking story (such as a highly publicized incident on campus) by providing journalists with quotes they can insert easily into their stories. Statements must be prepared quickly and be less than one page. They should be dated and include a contact name and phone number. Statements are faxed to media as early as possible on the day they are covering the incident or event. Statements must be quotable.

A BACKGROUNDER is an in-depth explanation of an issue that is designed to help reporters who may be uninformed report more accurately.

A FACT SHEET is a one-page information sheet that often contains statistics or other data.

A PRESS KIT is distributed at a news conference, press briefing or in response to a request for information. Press kits contain news releases, statements, backgrounders, fact sheets and materials that are not designed specifically for the media (newsletters, brochures, papers, textbooks, etc.).

A CALENDAR ANNOUNCEMENT is a short, one-page notification of events that are of interest to the public. A calendar announcement is intended to air or to be published.

PITCH LETTERS are personalized notes that specifically urge a particular media outlet to cover an event or issue. They often describe a particularly newsworthy aspect of the event.

AN EDIT MEMO is a short memorandum to editorial page editors or members of an editorial board that asks them to devote space to an issue. A good editorial memorandum contains several well-written paragraphs that can be lifted and used in an editorial.

AN OP/ED PIECE is a 500- to 700-word signed guest editorial that is submitted for publication to newspapers. An op/ed piece emphasizes the writer's opinion or experience and is of interest to the general public.

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR responds to reports or editorials with a confirming or opposing point of view, often expanding on a point made in the original article. Letters to the editor should be brief no more than a page, four or five very short paragraphs and are intended for publication.

A PRESS BRIEFING is an informal, by-invitation-only meeting at which experts give reporters background and information. Press briefings often take place over breakfast, and usually involve one or two experts and up to twelve reporters. Press briefings might be held to bring reporters up to speed on a new study or program, or an incident on campus. Fact sheets and other background materials are distributed.

back to top Media Watch
News Clips


"In less than a decade, Occidental has been transformed into a college that reflects the social and economic mosaic of greater Los Angeles . . . Students from diverse backgrounds have opportunities to learn from one another and outside the classroom. Moreover, the college has made these changes without the serious racial tensions, political confrontations or academic culture wars that often accompany such changes. Meanwhile, all the key indicators of academic excellence point to a sharper, smarter, more engaged student body." Occidental professors Peter Dreir and Robert Gottlieb illustrating that diversity means excellence for all students. ("Reconnecting Campus and Community," Los Angeles Times, 14 August 1998).

back to top


"We need to realize who benefits from diversity. If we bring our white children to universities and colleges and not expose them to any ethnicity, any diversity, we are doing them a disservice." Shari Clarke, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Equity at the Nebraska University, about her efforts to strengthen campus diversity and assess the university's progress on diversity issues. Clarke is encouraging the University to focus on retention, faculty hiring, and a climate welcoming to students of color. ("Woman Working for Diversity at NU," Lincoln Journal-Star, 27 September 1998).

back to top


"The second principle [fundamental to the success of the University of Utah] is diversity. There is much discussion about how the state of Utah will change in the next century. The University of Utah must not just mirror that change, we must lead it. We owe our students preparation for the kind of society in which they will be living. Many come to the university from homogeneous backgrounds--environments where their values and culture have never been challenged." University of Utah President J. Bernard Machen asserting the importance of diversity in his inauguration speech. ("President Machen Pledges University of Utah to Excellence, Diversity, Academics," Salt Lake City Tribune, 27 September 1998).

back to top


"As I get older, I understand that my world has been very confined. Being at Colby for a year has helped me realize that there is an entire world waiting for me to embrace it. I have grown tremendously since my departure from Los Angeles and it hurts to see some people at home in the same place they were when I left. I owe it to myself and everyone who has helped me to reach out and try to help other people." African American Colby College student Venola Mason describing the lessons she has learned from attending a college that is mostly white. ("From L.A. to Maine: From Tupac to Jewel," Christian Science Monitor, 1 September 1998.)

back to top


"Having a Black Culture Center on campus is one more thing to make MU more attractive to prospective students. It's one way to show tangible evidence of the University's commitment to diversity." Tim Wilson, the coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Missouri University extolling the virtues of creating a welcoming atmosphere on campus for African American students. ("Cultural Oasis," Missourian, 3 September 1998).

back to top

Washington, DC

"The ultimate issue in considering race-sensitive admissions policies is how the country can best prepare itself for a society in which one-third of the population will be black and Latino by the time today's college students are at the height of their careers. With that in mind, would it be wise to reduce substantially the number of well-prepared blacks and Latinos graduating from many of our leading colleges and professional schools? Considering students' own views about what they have gained from living and learning with classmates from different backgrounds and races, and the demonstrated success of black graduates in the workplace and the community, we do not think so." Shape of the River authors William G. Bowen and Derek Bok making an argument for affirmative action. ("Get In, Get Ahead: Here's Why," Washington Post, 20 September 1998).

back to top