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Speaking Out to the Media and to Legislators - Previous Revision

NCTE Members Are the Best, Most Knowledgeable People to Speak Out about NCTE's Positions and How Those Positions Look in Practice!


You Bring NCTE Policies and Positions to Life When You Share Your Knowledge and Experience as Educators. 



NCTE Members Might Speak . . .

  • To and through the media
  • To legislators at the national, state, and local levels
  • To the public at local meetings and social events
  • To their friends, neighbors, and colleagues

Speaking to the Media and to Legislators -- Do Your Homework


  •  Know your audience -- find out about the media outlet or legislator and what issues they care about and how they represent them

Plan What You'll Say


  • Practice by responding to the toughest and best questions you guess the reporter or legislator will ask.

What to Do During the Interview or Meeting

  • Be prepared and be yourself.
  • Keep your “crib sheet” of 2-3 points plus examples and policies nearby.
  • Be positive, honest, and straightforward -- think of the interview as a good conversation, not a debate.
  • Use personal stories to illustrate your points, and analogies when possible to clarify your points.
  • Speak and listen.
  • Use everyday language; don’t use jargon.
  • Admit when you don’t know the answer to a question; never say “No comment.”
  • Listen; empathize; pause to gather your thoughts; and don’t allow words to be put in your mouth. 

After an Interview with a Reporter

  • Before you hang up, ask the reporter when the story will run.
  • After you hang up, send a two-sentence note to NCTE about the interview; email or the NCTE staffer who set up the interview.

How NCTE Works with You When a Reporter Requests an Interview

  • When NCTE receives a request from the press for an interview, we contact the spokesperson who seems best for the job -- usually by email.
  • Often reporters are on tight deadlines, so your timely response, even to say “No,” is important.
  • We’ll send you links to the positions and policies we send the reporter.
  • We’re available to you as a resource for background on the media outlet, the reporter, the stated angle of the story, and the NCTE positions.
  • Note: if you don’t agree with the topic of the interview or the NCTE policies, please don’t accept the interview.

A Few Words about the Press and Reporters

  • They are not our enemies. They are a sister profession, whose work is anchored in the First Amendment. Many are professional writers and researchers.
  • Their job is to get a story out.
  • They are looking for an angle and some good quotes.
  • It’s their job to ask tough questions.
  • They have word limits.
  • They are coming to you because they know you are an expert and they want you to share your expertise.
  • They are bound by ethical standards.
  • They sometimes come to a story with false assumptions which they will give up when you give them proper evidence to the contrary.

After a Meeting with a Legislator . . .

  • Don't forget to send a thank you note and include any information you may have offered to provide during your visit -- email is the best way.
  • Ask to be consulted when issues arise and, even if you haven't heard, follow up a few months later just to keep in touch by offering your assistance.

Tips for Speaking to the General Public

  • Don’t shy away from lightly sharing what you know about literacy learning and NCTE policies when the opportunity arises.
  • Turn that favorite party statement “Oh, you teach English -- I’d better watch my grammar” into a simple lesson about language and how it’s best for all of us to learn and use it.
  • Remember that literacy learning is complicated -- even if some think it simple -- and your mission is to explain this complex process simply.
  • Brag about your students.
  • Skip the jargon but use the personal story.

NCTE Members Are Vital to Getting the Word Out

  • Your ability to clearly explain why students should read “tough” literature or why high stakes tests aren’t the answer to leaving no child behind articulates NCTE’s mission for members of the greater education world and for the public.
  • Your words even in a local paper will go to thousands people -- tens of thousands in a large city, and millions if that paper is The New York Times.
  • Your words taken to heart by a legislator could make the difference in national programs or legislation.
  • Changing the conversation about literacy education so we can change education policy is our goal.



Please contact Millie Davis or Lori Bianchini, NCTE Communications Division, for assistance with your questions about speaking with the media or with legislators:; 217-278-3634 (Millie) or 217-278-3644 (Lori).

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A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts