April 16, 2008

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Preparing for the Media

March 2008

To the Students, Faculty, and Staff of Virginia Tech

As you can imagine, there remains significant ongoing media interest in Virginia Tech in light of the tragedy that occurred on our campus last April 16. As is customary for an event of this magnitude — one that gripped not only reporters, but the entire world — there will be anniversary coverage on or around April 16, 2008.

We expect again to have many, many reporters, broadcasters, and cameras on campus during that week and/or at the remembrances planned for that day.

As I did last year, let me again apprise you of our policy and the law. Our university is public property. Roads are public thoroughfares. We cannot bar the media, although many have suggested it. We will be working to provide appropriate but limited access to the campus. I believe that most were respectful of you and the circumstances of our healing last year.

Reporters (or other visitors) are never allowed in classrooms without the faculty member’s permission. This is a moot point, since classes are cancelled on April 16. Still, we are apprising the media to refrain from entering academic buildings before or after April 16. Residence halls are always off limits to any visitor unless approved by a resident or a member of the student affairs’ leadership. Spaces like offices and labs are always controlled by the occupants. Certain university buildings have nominal public access and you may bump into a reporter. If a building is open to the public, it is open to all members of the public.

What should you do if a member of the news media approaches you for an interview either on that day or before? You are never REQUIRED to speak to a reporter. Politely telling a reporter 'no thank you' will suffice. If a reporter is particularly insistent, just walk away and do not feel guilty about doing so. We have posted media guidelines at

However, we have a powerful story to tell. We have prevailed and we are healing. The Hokie Nation is strong. You have represented us well during some very trying times. You have shown the world the special nature of Hokie Spirit and our sense of community. The close-knit nature of this academic community was readily apparent throughout the days and months after April’s tragedy and continues.

If interviewed, I would expect a reporter to ask you about April 16. Go only as far as you feel comfortable. You control the discussion. Students and professors with whom I’ve discussed this possibility are in different places emotionally. Many are ready to move on and speak to the now or the future. Frankly, I like to focus on what we were before April 16 and what we remain today – one of America’s leading universities focused on learning, discovery, and engagement. You help invent the future.

Virginia Tech’s reputation and legacy are founded on the quality of its people. I have great confidence in the university community and the institution as we continue on the road to recovery.

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office at or 231-5396.

Sincerely yours,

Lawrence G. Hincker
Associate Vice President
University Relations