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Thursday, June 24, 2021 — Houston, TX 94°

Press Guide for Students: What should you expect from an interview with the Thresher?

So you’ve received a request for an interview from one of our writers. What should you do?

1. Don’t panic. Our writers are your peers and likely as nervous as you are. Interviews are not meant for the writer to intimidate you or to catch you in a “gotcha” moment — they are our attempt to cover all stories in a well-rounded, holistic way.

2. Try your very best to meet in person. While email or text interviews feel easier/safer, they often result in canned, generic quotes and they become tedious when the writer has follow up questions. Interviews are conversations more than anything!

3. Do your research:

  • Follow up on what the topic is: if you’re not familiar with the subject, feel free to refer the interviewer to someone else.
  • Discuss the topic with members of your organization
  • Gather any important documents that you feel might help prove your point

4. Research the media organization (us!):

  • Who is their audience?
  • What have they written about before on this topic?
  • Who is the reporter? 

5. Simplify your message:

  • Know what you want to say
  • Think of relevant anecdotes ahead of time
  • State the key message first, then provide details

6. Communicate with the writer/editor

  • We will note if you do not respond (i.e. “(name) declined to  comment at the time of publication”). This might set a tone that you don’t want. If you don’t feel comfortable responding, just let the writer know and refer them to sources that might be more useful.
  • If you feel that the writer didn’t ask about something you want to talk about, introduce the topic at any point or tell them that there’s context you’d like to discuss. Additionally, if they don’t ask (they should, but sometimes it slips through the cracks) be sure that the writer knows your preferred name, graduating year (especially if it differs from, pronouns and college.

7. Overshare. Don’t be afraid to explain key concepts and phrases. Make sure you know what you cannot/shouldn’t say.

8. Don’t say anything you don’t want repeated. What you say will be attributed to you.

9. Good sources get asked back. With tight deadlines, we often find ourselves going to the sources that we know will reliably respond! 

Can I ask to read my quotes before they’re published? 

It is generally against Thresher policy to share drafts of the article or quotes being used in the article with sources before the article is published. If you feel that context is necessary for quotes, let the writer know during the interview. If you have any concerns, please reach out to the story’s writer and the section editor.


What’s ‘off the record’ and how do I use it? Can I retract statements after I interview?

All of our writers are advised to record interviews for the sake of accuracy — since the Thresher includes quotes from interviews, writers can ensure that their quotes are accurate by referring to the recording. The Thresher is not obligated to respect retraction requests, especially given the availability of “off the record.” 

On the record — Whenever you agree to an interview, the writer will plan to record the interview. Anything said in the interview, if it isn’t off the record (see explanation of off the record below), can be included in the article.

Off the record — If there is something you’d like to tell the writer but don’t want included in the article, you can request for that specific statement to be off the record. Here’s how it goes:

  • You must ask for your statement to be off the record before you say whatever it is that you want to be off the record. Off the record cannot be applied after the fact.
  • The writer must agree for the statement to be off the record. They may ask for a few vague details about the statement in order to decide whether they agree to off the record.
  • If both of you agree, the writer will turn off their recording device while you make the statement and will refrain from taking notes
  • Tell the writer when your off the record statement is finished, and you can resume your on the record discussion.

Why go off the record? If you know something but don’t want to be associated with the knowledge or want the interviewer to contact someone else about it, going off the record is a good way to go about sharing that information. Going off the record is also a good way to provide context that you don’t want published. 

Can I be anonymous for this interview? 

Requesting anonymity — The Thresher has high standards for anonymity. If a writer has reached out to you and you would like to be anonymous, please contact the writer before the interview takes place and tell them why you would like to request anonymity. The writer will then contact their editor and the editor(s)-in-chief, who will ultimately decide whether you qualify for anonymity. Past qualifications include: students in an ongoing criminal/SJP investigation, students who had been sexually assaulted, students discussing drug use/underage drinking and students who spoke about their mental health. 

This policy allows us to find a balance between sharing the truth with our readers and being transparent about our sources. We allow anonymity so that sources may share information about a certain subject without worrying about the harm they might face if their name were attached. However, we want to ensure that every anonymous source is anonymous for reasons that meet our standards so that we and our readers can trust the integrity of our sources and their statements. Being anonymous still subjects you to the fact-checking that we do — i.e. if you claim something anonymously, we will check it as rigorously as if you were not anonymous. 

Once you’ve been granted anonymity, knowledge of your identity will be limited to the writer, the section editor and the editor(s)-in-chief. We must know your full identity in order to confirm that you are an appropriate source for the story. 

The Thresher can grant different levels of anonymity, based on the identifying details that we usually include in articles: name, pronouns, year and residential college. Anonymous sources never have their name included in the article, but it will be up to the discretion of the editors, along with input from the source, as to which other details might be included. 

How is my interview recorded / what will my quotes be used for?

The writer interviewing you should give you a general idea about the vision of the article, but feel free to ask any additional questions. In-person and phone interviews are recorded unless they are off-the-record; email and text interviews are usually copied and pasted in full into the article document. We hold onto these records for as long as possible in case we are asked about our sourcing.

Occasionally, your interview may be used for a different, highly related article. This can occur especially in news, where coverage changes rapidly. 

The story is published, and I feel like I’ve been mis-quoted, misrepresented or there’s additional information missing. What can I do? 

Contact the editor-in-chief or editor (not the writer) with the alleged error or update. If you don’t know who the editor is, email directly. We will review all recordings/notes, make a decision on whether a correction or update is needed and let you know. 

Examples of errors include: misgendering, misquoting, attributing information to the wrong person or incorrect demographic information (i.e. wrong major or college). 

“Gray area” errors, or errors subject to our discretion, include “lack of context” arguments. Occasionally, a quote will truly be taken out of context or paraphrased inaccurately. In those cases, we will adjust the story by adding in more of the quote or re-paraphrasing. 

Examples of non-errors include: “I didn’t know this was going to be quoted” or “I don’t like how this was phrased” arguments. 

Corrections and updates are marked and timestamped online first. If the error is major, it will also be noted in the Opinion section in the next printed paper.