Detailed guidelines about dealing with the media are provided in the Media Guidelines document which forms an appendix to this policy.
The University of Waikato is a major public institution and as a consequence it often attracts considerable interest from local and national media. Media attention has the potential to enhance, as well as detract from, the overall reputation of the University. It is important, therefore, to manage the University's engagement with the media positively, constructively and professionally. The overall responsibility for the University's media relations rests with the Director, Communications and Strategy.
Given the size and complexity of the University and its operations, it is important for staff to share an understanding of, and commitment to, the systems and processes which have been developed for the positive management of media relations for the University.
The Media Policy sets out the principles which underpin the University's approach to media relations, and the procedures for coordinating and managing media relations.
The Policy recognises that staff may have occasion to interact with the media in three primary capacities:
- as a private individual, or
- as an academic or professional expert, or
- as an official spokesperson of the University.
All of these roles, and the responsibilities associated with them, are addressed in the Policy.
This Policy should be read in conjunction with the following University of Waikato documents:
- Code of Ethics for Academic Staff
- Protected Disclosures Policy ("Whistleblowing")
- Staff Code of Conduct
- Vision 2005-2015
Part 1 - Principles
- The University of Waikato is a public institution that is accountable for its actions.
- The University responds promptly to media enquiries and is always truthful when dealing with the media.
- The University is proactive in developing positive media coverage to allow it to communicate with the community it serves, build support for its core objectives and enhance its reputation.
- The University responds quickly to limit potential damage to the University caused by adverse or incorrect media coverage.
- The University has an obligation to protect itself and its staff and students from unfair intrusion by the media.
Part 2 - Responsibilities of staff to the best interests of the University
- Notwithstanding the rights of individuals to freedom of speech within the law, staff of the University have an obligation, expressed in the Staff Code of Conduct, to act in the best interests of the University at all times.
- Staff are expected to participate fully in University consultation and decision-making processes on any official University matters and to refrain from debating opinions on such matters through the media.
- Staff must not
(1) express views and opinions in the public domain with the intention of discrediting the University.
(2) express views on behalf of the University unless authorised to do so by the Vice-Chancellor.
- In circumstances where a staff member considers there to have been serious wrongdoing by the University, he or she is advised to follow internal procedures for the proper investigation and resolution of such matters, as provided under the Protected Disclosures Policy ("Whistleblowing").
Part 3 - Contact with the media by staff members as private individuals
- The University affirms the right of staff to interact freely with the media as private individuals.
- When staff members discuss with the media, or write about, matters outside their areas of work, they must make it clear that they are speaking as private individuals and not as staff members. The use of University position titles, letterhead or postal addresses is prohibited in this context.
- When staff members speak to the media on their own behalf, or on behalf of organisations not associated with their work at the University, University property must not be used as a backdrop for filming or photographic purposes.
Part 4 - Contact with the media by staff members as academic or professional experts
- The University affirms the special role of universities as critic and conscience of society, under section 162(4) of the Education Act 1989.
- The University also affirms the rights of staff to exercise academic freedom, which is defined under section 161 of the Education Act 1989 as follows:
Education Act 1989 s161-Academic freedom
(1) It is declared to be the intention of Parliament in enacting the provisions of this Act relating to institutions that academic freedom and the autonomy of institutions are to be preserved and enhanced.
(2) For the purposes of this section, "academic freedom", in relation to an institution, means-
(a) The freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions:
(b) The freedom of academic staff and students to engage in research:
(c) The freedom of the institution and its staff to regulate the subject-matter of courses taught at the institution:
(d) The freedom of the institution and its staff to teach and assess students in the manner they consider best promotes learning:
(e) The freedom of the institution through its chief executive to appoint its own staff.
(3) In exercising their academic freedom and autonomy, institutions shall act in a manner that is consistent with-
(a) The need for the maintenance by institutions of the highest ethical standards and the need to permit public scrutiny to ensure the maintenance of those standards: and
(b) The need for accountability by institutions and the proper use by institutions of resources allocated to them.
(4) In the performance of their functions the Councils and chief executive of institutions, Ministers, and authorities and agencies of the Crown shall act in all respects so as to give effect to the intention of Parliament as expressed in this section.
- The University's Code of Ethics for Academic Staff expands on the responsibilities associated with academic freedom, and explains the principle that this freedom is directly linked to the academic staff member's area of academic expertise, and his or her research, scholarship and teaching activities.
- The principle of 'academic freedom' may also apply to general staff, many of whom are also recognised as having professional expertise in particular areas.
- The University affirms the right of staff members to interact freely with the media as academic or professional experts.
- In exercising this right, staff must ensure that they do not claim or imply that they speak on behalf of the University, or express views on other official University matters (see Part 7 below).
- While academic debate over research findings, theories or viewpoints is encouraged, personal attacks on other members of staff or students, or disparagement of any area of the University through the media, are contrary to the provisions of the Code of Ethics for Academic Staff.
- The University may be held liable for defamatory comments or libellous statements made by a staff member. Staff must therefore take the utmost caution to ensure any comments and statements do not have legal consequences for the University.
Part 5 - Media enquiries about areas of academic expertise
- Academic staff members are encouraged to respond to media enquiries related to their areas of academic expertise and are not required to seek permission before doing so. However, staff are requested to inform the Marketing and Communications Division when they have had contact with the media, so that the resulting media coverage can be monitored.
- Staff are encouraged to consult the Marketing and Communications Division for advice or assistance in dealing with media enquiries. (The media guidelines appended to this policy are intended to assist staff in dealing with the media.)
- Some media enquiries about an academic matter might also relate more broadly to the University (for example, a request for an accounting professor to comment on the University's accounting policies). In such cases, or where the staff member has any doubt about whether he or she may answer the enquiry, the matter must be referred to the Marketing and Communications Division.
- Staff who answer a media enquiry as an academic expert must make it clear that their opinions are based on their expert knowledge and research. Where the subject is likely to be contentious, they must make it clear in their response to the media that their opinion does not represent the considered position of the University.
- Staff must provide the media with their academic titles (e.g., Professor or Dr) when they are commenting as academic experts. Position titles (e.g., dean, pro vice-chancellor, deputy vice-chancellor) are not appropriate in this context, as such titles may convey the impression that the person is representing the considered position of the University of Waikato.
Part 6 - Visits to the campus by the media
- In circumstances where the media wish to visit the campus or any University facility in relation to enquiries under Part 5 above, the staff member is required to consider whether the visit might impinge on the work or study activities of other members of the University community. If so, the staff member must take reasonable steps to ensure that the relevant people are consulted, and that appropriate agreement to the arrangements for the visit are made, with any disruption to the work of others being kept to a minimum.
- When a staff member hosts a media visit which is likely to lead to wider media interest, the staff member should consult the Marketing and Communications Division at the earliest opportunity. (Marketing and Communications may wish to be involved).
- It is appropriate for the University grounds or facilities to be used for filming interviews relating to University of Waikato activities and research, subject to the approval of the relevant manager or Dean. Where extensive filming on campus is planned, staff are required to advise the Director of Facilities Management Division of the details.
Part 7 - Interaction with the media as an official spokesperson of the University
- Only the Vice-Chancellor and the Head of Marketing and Communications, or staff formally authorised by either of them (either generally or on particular matters), may provide official comment to the media on behalf of the University.
- Only the Chancellor may speak to the media on behalf of the University Council.
- All media enquiries relating to University policies, operations and issues received by a staff member must be directed to the Marketing and Communications Division, who will, in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor where appropriate, determine a spokesperson to address the enquiry. This spokesperson is then responsible for coordinating the gathering of relevant information and communicating with the media.
- Any staff member who becomes aware of an issue or event that has the potential to impact significantly on the University's reputation or stakeholder relationships must immediately notify the Marketing and Communications Division. The staff member must not make any comment to the media, even if it is the media who have alerted him or her to the issue/event.
Part 8 - Emergencies
- Campus Security staff are responsible for notifying the Vice-Chancellor, relevant senior staff and the Marketing and Communications Division immediately of any serious security issue or emergency that occurs at the University (for example, an accidental death on campus, a fire, or significant police involvement with a matter connected to the University).
- The Marketing and Communications Division, in consultation with the Vice-Chancellor and any other relevant staff, is responsible for releasing any information to the media about an emergency situation.
Part 9 - Confidential information and requests under the Official Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act 1993
- Confidential University information must not be disclosed to the media under any circumstances. Requests for information that is confidential must be referred to the Vice-Chancellor's Office, so that they can be considered within the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982 and/or the Privacy Act 1993.
- Information about individual staff or students may only be given to media with the explicit consent of the individuals concerned, except in exceptional circumstances with guidance from the University's Privacy Officer in the Vice-Chancellor's Office.
- Any staff member who receives a request for information, from the media or any other party, which quotes either the Official Information Act 1982 or the Privacy Act 1993, must forward it immediately to the Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor who will respond on behalf of the University.
Appendix: Media Guidelines.