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Suggestions for Authors Interacting With the News Media 

Suggestions for Authors Interacting With the News Media
Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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Subscriber: null; date: 21 June 2018

Suggestions for Authors Interacting With the News Media

The following recommendations are provided for interactions between authors and the news media.12,18,20,22

  • Authors should abide by agreements with journals not to publicize their work while their manuscript describing their work is under consideration or awaiting publication by a journal. If authors have any questions about prior release of such information, they should contact the journal’s editorial office.20,22

  • Authors presenting research at clinical and scientific meetings may discuss their presentations with reporters but should refrain from distributing copies of their presentations, data, tables, or figures (see 5.3, Duplicate Publication).20,22

  • Authors should inform editors of previous news coverage of their work at the time of manuscript submission (see 5.3, Duplicate Publication).20

  • Authors of manuscripts under consideration by a journal or accepted but not yet published should not participate in press conferences before publication of their findings in the journal unless this is an approved exception by the journal editor and this is done in coordination with the journal.22

  • Authors who receive telephone calls or other communications from journalists about their research or other work reported in manuscripts that are under consideration but not yet accepted by a journal may indicate that the manuscript is under consideration but should not provide details on the name of the journal if and until the manuscript is accepted. (See also 5.7.1, Confidentiality, Confidentiality During Editorial Evaluation and Peer Review and After Publication.)

  • Authors should establish an understanding with a reporter before an interview about the journal’s embargo policy, comments made “on and off the record,” and the opportunity to review direct quotations.12 Note: Authors should be cautious about making comments “off the record.”

  • For accepted manuscripts about to be published and those just published, authors should be as accessible to the news media as their schedules permit, keeping reporters' deadlines in mind and setting aside time to prepare for and give interviews.12

  • During an interview, authors should avoid use of medical/scientific jargon, acronyms, and too many statistics; explain commonly used jargon and acronyms and provide easily understood statistics; avoid answering hypothetical questions; and avoid responding with “no comment” (provide an explanation for not being able to answer a specific question).18

  • Authors should inform reporters and news organizations of errors in news stories and request published corrections if necessary.12

  • Authors who expect to be interviewed frequently by the news media should consider having training in providing informative and accurate interviews.12

In addition, journal editors should inform authors of accepted manuscripts of the journal’s policies regarding release of information prior to publication and relations with the news media. For example, JAMA reminds authors of its policies on duplicate publication and news embargoes in acceptance letters, noting that authors and the news media should not release any information about the author’s accepted article until the specified embargo date and time. This embargo does not preclude authors from participating in interviews with reporters who are preparing stories; it is meant to remind authors that any news stories resulting from such interviews should not precede publication of the authors' articles in the journal.

Some journals notify authors of projected publication dates in their acceptance letters, and some journals include a notice of the publication date on the edited manuscript or page proof sent to authors for approval before publication. Editorial and publishing staff may also receive calls from authors requesting information about expected dates of publication. Staff and authors should not assume that such dates or their corresponding embargo dates are definite or final. Editors may rearrange the editorial content schedules of specific issues; thus, publication dates may change. When informing authors of the expected dates of publication for their accepted articles, editors should remind authors that these dates may change.

If authors want to coordinate news coverage of their published articles through a press conference or press release, they should first contact the journal editor to ascertain the exact date of publication. The ICMJE suggests that editors and publishers may want to help authors and representatives from their organizations coordinate press conferences and releases with the simultaneous publication of their articles.20 Editors and publishers can also help the news media prepare accurate reports by providing news releases, answering questions, providing access to the authors and other experts, and providing advanced access to journal articles. This assistance should be contingent on agreement with and cooperation of the news media in timing their release of stories to coincide with the publication of the article. Press releases, advance copies of journals, and journal articles released online in advance should indicate the date and time of the news embargo and be restricted to qualified news journalists and agencies that agree to honor the journal’s embargo policy.

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