CAN Media Guide

CAN Media Guide

Contents of this resource:

CAN Media Guide
CAN Media Policy
Media Contacts List


This document is intended to be a general guide for cycling advocates to help them in dealing with the media. It covers some general points about key messages, interviews, potential problem areas, approaches by and to the media, and suggests a simple media policy that all cycling advocacy groups should have in place.

What the media want

  • The media are hungry, especially TV and radio with their frequent news broadcasts: they want to be first with the story, and need something fresh and different.

  • You'll often have to deal with young, inexperienced journalists due to high staff turnover (regional media often viewed as a training ground).

  • A dedicated transport reporter won't always exist, or be available. Journalists are rarely specialists and won't necessarily know the way into a story (they tend to use a standard approach). You can suggest the way in.

  • Keep in touch with a reporter so they see you as a resource person. Keep doing your homework and follow the stories. Give them an idea of new work or future plans.

  • The media maintain contacts list that include ratings. Aim to be someone who's helpful, easy to deal with, presentable. Don't get narky if they don't cover you.

  • With radio, morning is a good time to approach journalists. Sunday is excellent (they need stuff for Monday). Avoid TV and radio on late Friday afternoon. For TV, late morning/early afternoon is best. TV don't film for the next day - it's either that day, or the opportunity is gone.

  • TV news teams meet in the morning to decide which existing stories to cover; other stories might come up at short notice or a story might take longer, in which case the TV crew don't turn up.

Stories and key messages

  • Start by writing down what the issue is. It's useful to brainstorm angles for a story.

  • If you found others are interested in a story, the media probably will be too. Consider: "will it be the sort of thing people will discuss around the coffee machine at work?"

  • People are fundamentally self-interested. The audience will think "how does this relate to ME?" It's not enough to say people should be interested.

  • Emotion is important: a story should not just engage the brain, but engage the audience with something personal, or perhaps humourous.

  • It's essential to ruthlessly prune your information down to ensure your one key message is highlighted: other information is likely to be a distraction - if you need to include extra information, get to it after the key message has been put.
  • Media can get tired of whingeing; if you have some positive angle, example or anecdote then use it.

  • Some stories will run regularly (e.g. the mid-winter swim...).

  • Don't assume that a secondary or later phase of a project is boring. Wait until you have good results to show. Find other similar initiatives to put together in a bigger story.

Contacting the media with your story

  • All media want to be first. You might want to decide timing of your event or release based on who you think will cover it or who you want to cover it.

  • Notice who the reporters are and come to them with stories ("I liked your item last night. I think you might be interested in...").

  • If you have initiated personal contact with a journalist to give them a story, they will assume the story is their 'exclusive'. This is a good way of building relationships. Don't break that trust by releasing the story to others. If it's a good enough story the news services may pick it up and make it generally available.

  • The danger of focusing on just one media outlet is that they might not cover your story. It may be preferable to make your story widely available up front via a media release (see below).

  • It's only worth approaching TV if you have something for people to see - don't leave it for them to come up with the ideas.

  • Look for powerful images (e.g. Nurses Organisation gets oldest nurse alive to lick stamps for Fair Pay campaign envelopes).

  • Celebrities make great photo opportunities or TV viewing. Politicians often don't. Build up a list of celebs who'll co-operate.

  • In the regions, don't think "TV won't cover us"; TV will come if it's a great story (they want to show they have nationwide coverage).

Media Releases

  • A media release should be 1-2 pages describing the central issue, your organisation's involvement and what you want to happen. Other messages and supporting information can be attached in a separate document or sent as a follow up.

  • The angle needs to be explained in first or second sentence, e.g. following something quirky (attention grabbing). This may be all that is used. Cover the five W's (who, what, why, when, where) as well as 'how'. For follow-up stories, start with the new angle then explain the basics.

  • Quotes you give need to be strong and direct, and build on the story in some way. It's stronger to have people say things in their own words.

  • Find common ground with the audience. Make things concrete and real; it's no good being amorphous; reduce things down to the bare essentials or break up complex issues into chunks and deal with them one at a time.

  • Maintain a contacts list for the various newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations in your area (you can base it on the list in this media pack).

  • Send the release via e-mail.

  • Try to address media releases to specific reporters; include relevant parts of the same organisation, e.g. Morning Report, Checkpoint, news.

  • Give contact details of someone who is authorised to speak on behalf of your group and who will be available (see example below).

  • Follow up with a phone call; it's an opportunity to 'sell' the story; "Did you get the email from me? We've got this really exciting thing happening..."

  • As an alternative to a media release, send supporting information, ring and talk to the journalist and give names of other people to call.

Being approached by the media

  • It's generally best to see being approached by the media as an opportunity: even a negative approach can be turned around to your advantage.

  • If you want to stop a story from continuing to run it can often work well to refuse to comment, though this isn't foolproof.

  • Speed of response is essential. Be aware of the journalist's deadlines. If you have to call back, find out their deadline and ring back at the agreed time. If you can't get through to the journalist's direct line, call the news desk.

  • Get the reporter's name and find out who they are doing the story for (what organisation? which programme or section of the paper?).

  • Clarify that the conversation is not being recorded.

  • Try to understand the context (where has this come from...?) and the angle of the story.

  • Ask who else they've spoken to.

  • If the reporter refers to other documents ask to see a copy.

  • DON'T TALK OFF THE CUFF. You need to prepare, so buy time. Give an excuse and ring back or arrange for them to ring back, then prepare.

  • Ring back even if you don't have the information they're after. Suggest who else they could contact. You can point the media to opponents with a rational approach.

  • Do not say "This is off the record", and avoid throw-away comments.

  • Stick to the facts.

How to deal with an interview

  • Before an interview make sure you have your key message sorted out.

  • If the interview relates to a report or speech you are going to make, have copies to hand.

  • Think "who will they go to for the opposing view and what will that person say?", then prepare to counter their views.

  • The approach you need is similar to how you'd go about talking to someone who knows nothing about the subject. Make it short, personal, with no big words (aim it at a 10 year old child). Use the active (not passive) voice (e.g. "we think that..." rather than "it's thought that...").

  • Don't be afraid to use a personal touch in a story where appropriate (real emotion): it helps to show you're a real person, with real concerns.

  • Go for the maximum gutsiness within the bounds of honesty and the constraints of your mandate.

  • Try to appear in a light that confounds the negative images of you that others may want to depict.

  • Turn cellphones off before the interview.

  • Once you're in the studio, be 'on duty'; treat the microphone as always live. For radio interviews by phone ask the journalist to tell you when they start taping.

  • If the story is for the news, keep working in key message to maximise the chance it will get used.

  • Avoid waffle and opportunities for reporters to piece together a response out of context.

  • If the interview is pre-recorded you can have another go: "I'm sorry, can you throw that question at me again"; important to avoid starting up again mid-sentence (they won't be able to use that bit). It's fine to say "Sorry, I've lost my train of thought, I'll start that again."

  • To get back on topic, use a bridging phrase ("Look, I think the really important point is...").

  • Avoid saying "as I said" or "as you mentioned before", because the 'before' might not get broadcast.

  • Don't be trapped into repeating 'bait phrases' (e.g. "Wairarapa's such a violent place") in your answer (especially as the original phrase may get left out, and it seems like your own statement).

  • Stop when you've said what you need to; don't run on; don't be panicked by the interviewer waiting for you - make them responsible for the silence.


  • It's useful if you have actions that can be rehearsed or done repeatedly.

  • TV reporters will often do the background work. They look to you to provide the personal touch (a personal story that illustrates a general point).

  • Have things well organised in advance - TV people are usually under time pressures. Make their jobs easier by arranging to film in an accessible area.

  • Avoid bland spaces - if necessary, put up posters on the wall or on a board.

  • Arrange for 'real people' to be interviewed (e.g. people who've been affected); sort this out in advance if possible so you're prepared for an approach by the media.

  • What is appropriate clothing for your job or position?; need to look tidy/casual, not too formal; look at people on TV for tips (do I want to look like that?).

  • Consider setting up some practical activity to do while you're being filmed (it may help you to keep calm) but avoid fiddling.

  • Facial expressions show a lot. Don't relax at the end of the interview. Retain your composure until you're absolutely sure it's over.

  • If seated get bum at back of seat, feet flat on floor. Don't swivel. Sit slightly forward, don't slump or lean.


  • It can be difficult to check on what's been written by a journalist before it is published. One option is to make it seem like you're doing them a favour - "I know there are some complex issues here. Maybe you'd like me to check it through..."

  • If a minor inaccuracy occurs but the general message of the story is correct then it's sometimes better to leave it as it is.

  • If a major mistake is made phone the media outlet's news desk and discuss the release of a small correction item. For print media you may be advised to write a letter to the editor with a copy going to the journalist. Your letter may be published and, in some cases the paper or magazine may print a retraction. However, this will ensure the debate stays in the public eye, which you may wish to avoid.

  • Note who writes good stories or who picks up on your issues and collect their names. Give praise for the way they handled stories in general, but don't thank them for their coverage of your issue - compliments are appropriate, thanks are not.

Media policies

  • Every organisation should have a media policy. It can be as simple as:

  • designating one person to talk to the media

  • insisting the designated media spokesperson consults with others if she/he is unsure about group policy

  • ensuring all members know who that person is and know to refer all media enquiries to that person in all cases

Media Policy

  1. All media statements issued under CAN’s name are to be issued (or cleared) by the Chair and in their absence the Deputy Chair.

  2. Official CAN media comment will be guided by CAN’s policy statements, campaign strategies and, where necessary, by seeking a specific mandate from the Media group or Committee members.

  3. Specific media strategies may be drawn up for particular campaigns or events by the Media group. 

  4. Media releases will be published on the CAN website.

  5. To gauge the effectiveness of CAN’s media strategies, it is useful for groups and members let the Chair know whether CAN media statements are reported by their local media (e.g. send copies of newspaper articles and web links).

  6. As a voluntary organisation, CAN relies on members to bring issues needing media comment to the attention of the Committee. Help from members and groups to write media releases and provide background material is appreciated and may be essential if some issues are to be pursued.

  7. CAN members and groups are free to make their own media statements. Members and groups are encouraged to ask for CAN support on local issues.

 Media Contacts 

Send changes to:
Cycling Advocates Network
PO Box 6491,Auckland

1.News agencies














2.National media






The Listener


09-373 9400

Sunday Star Times


09-302 1300

Sunday News



Herald on Sunday


09-379 5050


National Business Review



The Independent (Financial Review)


no specific transport reporter

09-916 7266


no specific transport reporters

09-377 9730

09-366 5912 (dd)

National Radio


04-474 1900

Newstalk ZB



Radio Live




3.City newspapers






The New Zealand Herald


09-379 5050

Waikato Times

Belinda Feek


The Dominion Post

Michael Forbes (transport reporter)

04-474 0196

04-474 0207 DD

The Press

All reporters


03-379 0940




03-943 2521 (DD)

03-379 0940 (general)

027 622 5010;


The Otago Daily Times


(03) 479 3532

4.Regional newspapers

For more addresses see


Contact Person




Northern Advocate


09-470 2865

Bay of Plenty Times


07-578 3059

Taupo Times


07-378 9060


Wanganui Chronicle


06-349 0710

Manawatu Evening Standard

06-356 9009

Nelson Mail


03-548 7079


Greymouth Evening Star


03-768 7121

Westport News


03-789 7319










5.  Local Television/Radio

CTV- Canterbury Television Ltd

03-377 7033


03-377 7277
Channel 9 (Dunedin TV)Darryl Baser(Senior Reporter)
 03-479 3595 

6.Community newspapers

For moreaddresses see


Contact Person




Independent Herald
Porirua City News
Wainuiomata News
Western News



CityLife published weekly on Tuesday, deadline Friday

The Wellingtonian



weekly on Wednesday, deadline Friday




Hutt News

Simon Edwards

04 570 2040

















7.Newsletters/Magazines of National Organisations


Name of Publication

Contact Person






Miriam Richardson



Adrian Croucher

NZ Mountain Bike Web

NZ Mountain Bike Web

Paul Kennett
can post messages at Advocacy forum



Tama Easton
leading cycling site



Andy Knackstedt

 Living Streets Aotearoa
   Andy Smith

Ministry of Transport



04-439 9238


EnergyWise News


0800 358 676.

Ministry for the Environment



04-917 7400

Health Promotion Forum


Sione Tu’itahi

09-520 3714














Ministry of Health
















updated Mar 2010

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