Many of us were trained to avoid reporters like the plague. We were told that our words would be misconstrued, our colleagues would judge us as being ‘showy’ and that we would be beseiged by the public if we engaged with the media.

As academics hid from the limelight, the national stage for medical and scientific opinions became overrun with less than credible sources. We have seen resurgence in scientists stepping up and talking not just about their work, but about public policy and perceptions that influence health care and research spending.

We chatted with FSU professor Gregg Stanwood on his recent viral editorial piece in the Tallahassee Democrat entitled “Repeat After Me: Mental Health IS Physical Health” was picked up nationally by USA Today and other venues and afforded him a place on the national stage which clearly resonated with patients and physicians.

Here’s some protips he shared with The Edge on what to expect and what he’s learned.

FS: You got great national and local coverage on this! Were you at all anxious about how your school or colleagues would receive an article advocating for embracing mental health concerns?

Dr. Stanwood: No, not really.  My colleagues and friends have been very supportive of my efforts to improve how we understand and treat mental illnesses.

FS: What inspired you to write this blog?

Dr Stanwood: I wrote this piece soon after the Germanwings 9525 crash in the French Alps in March 2015.  I found a lot of the wording used by the media and in the public reaction to the crash repugnant and scientifically incorrect.

FS: What advice would you have to folks thinking about using local media to talk about important issues in science?

Dr. Stanwood: The public and media are much more interested in science issues than many of us in science assume.  Write and speak from the heart and focus on what’s important to you.  You don’t need to be the voice for everything, but you should definitely become the voice for something.

FS: How has this changed your relationship with the local or national media?

Dr. Stanwood: It’s improved it.  The editor I have worked with at the Tallahassee Democrat is very interested in these issues and we have discussed more in depth series.

FS: What has been the most positive part of this experience for you?

Dr. Stanwood: Hearing from people who read the piece.  Not only those who expressed gratitude for helping people understand their point of view, but also those who strongly disagreed with the perspective I shared in the editorial.

Pointers for interacting with the media are also available from The Union of Concerned Scientists.

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