In October 2017, the Scholarly Communication Committee hosted a panel discussion, Op-Eds, Media Interviews, and Social Media: Faculty Scholarship in the Public Square, to explore how Georgetown faculty can bring their research to the attention of the public using traditional and social media. Moderated by Sanford Ungar, our panel of experts, Deborah Tannen and Marcia Chatelain from the GU faculty, Autumn Brewington, op-ed editor, and Danielle King, producer of WAMU’s 1A, shared their experience and expertise with GU faculty and staff. These web pages draw on and supplement the panel discussion by providing guidance and tips on how you can use traditional and social media to bring your research and scholarship to the attention of the public. The pros and cons of communicating your work through op-eds, interviews, blogs, Twitter, and podcasts are discussed below.
Benefits and Challenges
There are many potential benefits to sharing your expertise through the media. By communicating through alternative channels, you may be able to share your work with a broader audience without the long delay often associated with scholarly publishing. This could allow your work to inform and influence public discourse and policymaking. You can also provide reporters and the public with context and perspective on the news of the day, and perhaps inspire a new generation of researchers and scholars who would not otherwise be aware of your field. Communicating through the media may bring new ideas for your teaching and research, book contracts, or speaking engagements.
There are also challenges to using media to communicate your work. First, all of these activities take time away from your research, teaching, and service responsibilities, so you must consider how you will fit this work into an already busy schedule. Second, you will need to learn to adapt your writing and speaking style for readers and listeners who are not experts in your field. Third, when you are being interviewed by a reporter, there is chance that your statements will be misquoted, misinterpreted, or taken out of context. Finally, there have been cases where faculty have been harassed for their social media posts. Professors’ Growing Risk: Harassment for Things They Never Really Said sets out several recent examples.
Media Options: Pros & Cons
Below are five different options you can consider for using popular or social media to get your message out to colleagues and the public.
Writing an op-ed is a great way to bring your work to the attention of the public and to bring your perspective to the news of the day. There is a lot of competition for space on the op-ed pages of leading national newspapers, but there are many other publications through which you can also reach a broad readership.
- Opinion pages are widely read, so you can inform and educate readers and policymakers
- Your work will be professionally edited for maximum impact
- For national newspapers, the chances of having your piece selected for publication are small due to the very large number of submissions
- Op-ed writing is very different from academic writing, so you must adapt your style to use shorter sentences and plain English, and limit your piece to 700-800 words
2. Media Interviews
Journalists seek out information from experts on a wide range of newsworthy topics and frequently look to Georgetown faculty for their expertise. Being interviewed by the media allows you to explain your research and express your opinions directly to the public on radio or television interview, or to a reporter for newspaper or magazine.
- There is potential to share your message with a very large audience
- If your work has been covered by the media, it could strengthen your future grant applications and book proposals
- An extensive interview may be edited down to a short quote or soundbite
- Communicating effectively on radio or television is a skill that must be honed for maximum effectiveness, so preparing in advance is essential
The most successful blogs publish thoughtful pieces on a regular basis, so you will want to consider whether you have enough time to produce a high-quality blog. If not, consider guest blogging or co-hosting a blog with others to reduce the time commitment and perhaps reach a broader audience.
- You have complete control over what you post and when you post it
- Your blog posts have the potential to reach both colleagues and new audiences around the world
- Effective blogging requires a time commitment to keep your blog current and post thoughtful pieces
- You must build an audience for your blog
Faculty often use Twitter to share information about new research, books, articles, blog posts, conferences, and events in their field. While tweets have to be brief, you can include links to more in-depth analysis and discussion of the issue or enhance your message with images or video.
- Free and easy to use
- Your message gets out immediately and allows for interaction with colleagues and new audiences
- Tweets are limited to 280 or fewer characters, so you need to be succinct
- Maximizing the value of Twitter requires a time commitment of several hours a week or more
Podcasts allow you to explore ideas in greater depth than with other social media and also to engage in a conversation with another a person about a topic of mutual interest. While technologically more challenging than the other social media options, the basics of podcasting are easy to learn and all the equipment you need is available in the Gelardin New Media Center. Check out Gelardin's Guide on Audio and Podcasting Projects for more information.
- The longer length of podcasts encourages deeper thought about your topic
- You can reach listeners when they are engaged in another activity such as exercising or driving
- Recording a podcast requires specialized equipment and technical expertise
- Preparing for and recording a podcast requires a time commitment of at least several hours to be effective
If you are considering using traditional or social media to broaden the reach of your research, a professional headshot is a great way to allow readers to connect you with your online presence. Faculty and staff who need a headshot are invited to attend one of the spring 2018 sessions with Phil Humnicky, University Photographer, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on the following dates:
- Tuesday, February 20
- Thursday, March 15
- Friday, April 6
All sessions are in The President’s Room outside Riggs Library on the third floor of Healy Hall.
Once you have established your media presence, you can highlight your work on your GUFaculty360 page. Use the “Manage Personal Information” button to link to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Add a link to your blog or podcasts in the personal websites section. In the “My Profile” section, choose “In the News” to add links to your interviews and op-eds.
Below are some examples of how selected departments at Georgetown are promoting their faculty’s engagement with the media.
- Center for Education and the Workforce
- Georgetown Law in the News
- GU Politics in the News
- McCourt School in the News
- SFS in the News
- The Case for Academics as Public Intellectuals, AAUP (January-February 2014)
- Georgetown Conference on Public Scholarship and the University, Georgetown University (February 10, 2008)
- News Use Across Social Media, Pew Research Center (September 7, 2017)
Georgetown’s Office of Strategic Communications assists and advises all members of the university community interested in working with the media. Contact the Office at 202-687-4328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about publishing or promoting your work, contact Meg Oakley, Director, Copyright & Scholarly Communication.