As a researcher or clinician, you may be contacted directly by the media to provide comment on a story. In doing so, it is always important to know your organisation’s policy on speaking with the media; though if you are able to progress without requiring any permission then we have developed these guidelines based on the Australian National Council of Drug’s (2005) Key Principals for the Reporting of Drug-Related Issues:

  1. It is important to get a good understanding of what angle the journalist is taking on the story. It is easy to do an interview and just have a soundbite grabbed that is placed out of content. Alternatively, the media story that you are involved in could sensationalise the use of a drug.
  2. Consider whether you are the best person for the journalist to be speaking with. AOD Media Watch is building a database of Australian experts on specific topics, so if you feel uncomfortable talking about a story you or the journalist can contact us to get the details of an alternative researcher or clinician who might be a better fit for the story.
  3. If you decide to commit to working with the journalist, be clear about what your key message is. It can be helpful to record the interview so that you have evidence if you are misquoted or misrepresented, but if you do, you must disclose this.
  4. It is always important to challenge any stigmatising language that the journalist might use, or depictions of people who use drugs that might be marginalising or perpetuate stigma. Remind the journalist of the humanity of people who use drugs.
  5. Be wary of using stereotypical concepts or language that can be polarising.
  6. Where the opportunity arises, challenge dominant myths regarding the drug or drugs that you are talking about. Journalists may inadvertently distort drug use patterns because of a lack of reliable and valid data, or because of the information they have received from a media release. Always have data at hand to support your position.
  7. Challenge journalists when they are talking about AOD issues being resolved by single factors or simplistic strategies. AOD use and related problems are complex issues. Openly recognise that drug use can be associated with other conditions, including mental illness, homelessness, trauma, etc.