School Board Meetings and the Media
The business of the school board is required by law to be conducted in a public meeting. The business of the local media is to report on the news of the community. That includes reporting on the business of the school board.
In the interest of building a good working relationship with the reporters who cover your school board meetings, it pays to make their job as trouble free as possible. Here are some tips.
- Provide reporters with meeting agendas as far in advance as possible. Make sure they also receive any addendums or changes as soon as possible. There is little value in withholding the agenda until the last possible moment just because a controversial item is scheduled for discussion.
- Provide reporters with all backup materials that are not confidential documents. If possible, get it to them in advance of the meeting. If not, be sure you have the materials in hand to present to those reporters who attend before the meeting begins. Forcing reporters to ask you for the information won’t win you any points and wastes their time.
- Provide a place for reporters to sit (and set up cameras) during the meeting, particularly those reporters who regularly attend the board meetings. You may even want to set up a table where they can sit and write easily (and where you can sit as well and answer questions for them during the meeting). By designating a spot for cameras in the back or side of the room, you can control placement and reduce distractions. Some reporters may opt to decline your offer, but then they can’t blame you for being uncomfortable during a long meeting.
- Be prepared to provide background information on an agenda item and have appropriate staff available for interviews if the topic warrants it.
- Know the open meeting law in your state. The reporters will and so should you.
- Remind board members and the superintendent that reporters are in the audience and that joking or facetious comments can be presented out of context.
At the end of the meeting, ask reporters if there is any additional information they need.