How Pastors Should Deal with Reporters

November 24, 2009 by

Larry Kroon is pastor of Wasilla Bible Church in Wasilla, Alaska. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s the home church of former Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. As such, the church and Kroon faced an onslaught of reporters during last year’s campaign.

Journalists were roving the aisles of the church, harassing members and trying to find an inside scoop on Palin. Members felt trapped by the satellite trucks blocking the way to the parking lot.

“We can look back and say, ‘Whoa. We really should have done this or that differently,’” Kroon told religion reporter Terry Mattingly. “I was naive enough to think this wasn’t going to affect us–but it did. We ended up scrambling to get from day to day. We had that deer-in-the-headlights look for quite a while.”

When things calmed down Kroon called in a professional to help him sort out how he should have handled the situation. He came up with seven tips to help pastors deal with reporters.

“Pastors need to understand that there are really good reporters and there are some really bad ones, too,” Kroon said. “You also have to understand that even the really good ones are going to push you to your boundary lines. That’s what they do.”

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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5 Responses to “How Pastors Should Deal with Reporters”

  • Michael Holmes
    November 24, 2009

    This is a great post. And though the other article is looooonnnngggg :) it gives good ideas on how to deal with the press. I would say it doesn’t just taech pastors but ANYONE in the limelight.

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  • Ted
    November 24, 2009

    A journalist WITHOUT a leftist agenda? Sure, about 20 years ago, maybe. Don’t talk to the press unless it’s live.

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  • James
    November 24, 2009

    @Ted As a Christian and someone who was a journalist for 12 years and still does freelance work, I’m pretty appalled that you would paint all journalists with that brushstroke.
    It’s about time that we learned that if Christians don’t want to be stereotyped, we should probably stop trying to stereotype everyone else.

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  • Todd
    November 24, 2009

    I’m on staff at what was described as Sarah’s “other church.” The Palin family attended here for 15 to 20 years before attending Wasilla Bible. Wasilla Bible took quite a bit of heat for having a Jews For Jesus speaker and for advertising a conference on dealing with homosexuals in their bulletin.
    We are a pentecostal church, so we’ve taken the heat for being “weird.” (which we probably are…)
    But, you definitely want to have a game plan in place when it comes to dealing with the media. Some of the people we dealt with were great, others not so much.
    We quickly put out a statement concerning our relationship with Governor Palin and our position on the election, and that helped a lot. Our Pastor was (and is) real intent on expressing our views as Christians. Of course, for most of the media, that didn’t matter. They weren’t there for a spiritual lesson or a deeper understanding of Christianity; they wanted a STORY!
    We, like Pastor Kroon, were a little naive at first. We were excited that someone we knew, from our little town was suddenly in the national spotlight, and we thought the reporters calling were excited for us… They weren’t… They had a job to do.
    In addition to the national media, we also had (and still do) the attention of what would best be described as the “left wing bloggers.” They were really looking for some dirt. Several attended our services, and then wrote stories how they “infiltrated” our meetings. (Umm… guys, we knew who you were before you arrived, and it’s not hard to infiltrate a building with 4 open entrances. You weren’t being that sneaky…)
    So, the biggest things from our experience: 1) have one “offical” spokesperson 2) have a clear statement 3) understand the media is not there for deeper understanding of faith, they just want a story 4) enjoy the ride and remember sometimes any publicity is good publicity. We went from being ranked about 20th on Google to #1.
    Oh, and props to Pastor Koon. He’s a great guy and WBC is an awesome group of people!

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  • Kirk Longhofer
    November 24, 2009

    There is really one key takeaway here.
    If you are ever in a situation where controversy or tragedy has placed you as a church in the media spotlight: GET PROFESSIONAL HELP.
    That is even more true if you are dealing with national media. Get someone with experience in dealing with media directly. That may not be your denominational communications person. If they’ve never dealt with media under fire, they are the wrong person.
    This is a very, very difficult job, and not one to be undertaken by anyone other than a seasoned and experienced media relations pro. Too much can go wrong way too quickly.

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