Duke’s News Policies

Office of Public Affairs’ Mission and Vision
News & Communications’ Mission and Vision
News & Communications’ Areas of Responsibility


Outside Activities
Commercial Use of Duke Facilities
Legal Issues
Conflicts of Interest
Event coverage
Social Media Guidelines
Public Health
Patient Condition Reports
Exclusives and Fairness
Development and News
News Media Access to Duke Property
Facilities Use Policy
Community-Related Activities
Mailing List/Distribution Guidelines
Disclosure of University/Faculty Interests
Releases on Corporate Collaboration
Relationships with Vendors
Disclosure of Computer Security Problems
News Releases Involving More Than One School/Department
Web Links
Use of “Doctor” as a Title
Deaths and Obituaries


The mission of the Office of Public Affairs is to serve Duke’s dynamic educational, intellectual, and service missions by providing honest, timely and useful information to all its internal and external stakeholders and audiences, and by helping the university understand, anticipate, and manage its environment.

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We are committed to using our individual and collective experience, judgment, and talent to provide the most effective and creative public and government relations counsel to the Duke University community.

We forcefully advocate the interests of Duke University and of higher education, based on our belief in the intellectual values that are the foundation of a great university.

We are in the business of education and information exchange, and are committed to the principle that communication must be more than an end product; it is a vitally important strategic function. We have a responsibility to help decision makers understand, appreciate, and include honest communication in the development of institutional policy.

We take seriously our responsibility to anticipate change, and to provide comprehensive, strategic, and objective counsel to our clients, based on sound principles of communication.

We respect and value the intelligence of the university’s stakeholders and audiences.

We honor the contributions of each person in public affairs, recognizing that our success as a team reflects our individual and collective efforts.

The Office of Public Affairs has four divisions — the Office of News and Communications, University Photography, the Office of Government Affairs and Community Relations and the Office of Federal Relations.

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The mission of the Duke Office of News & Communications is to inform the public and university community about the work and events at Duke; to increase public understanding and appreciation of the contributions made by Duke’s faculty, staff and students; to help the university understand and deal with external influences; and to provide media relations consultative services to faculty and administration.


We advocate the interests of Duke University and higher education by disseminating official news and information about the university and all its schools and units to the public through appropriate news media.

We are committed to the principles of education and information exchange, and believe that a well-informed public, as well as all the university’s internal and external constituencies, is necessary to maintain support of Duke and higher education in general.

We collaborate with communications units across the university and support their efforts to reach out to internal and external audiences.

We monitor and anticipate external developments that may affect Duke, and develop and provide strategic communications advice to the university’s faculty and administration.

We report news of the university and its faculty to the faculty and staff and encourage cooperative communications efforts between schools and departments.

We respect the knowledge and intelligence of the university’s audiences and believe that forthright and honest communications are the foundation of all successful communications programs.

We recognize that the office’s success is the product of individual and collective efforts, and we value the contributions of each staff member.

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The Office of News & Communications has primary responsibility for “coverage” of news and information throughout the university. The Medical Center News Office works closely with the news service and is responsible for writing and producing news and information products for the media about activities and programs within the medical center. Communications offices of the schools and other university units also work closely with the news service and help produce news products concerning activities in their areas. The Office of Sports Information is responsible for promotion of the university’s athletic programs.

The president has given general responsibility for the dissemination of all official university news to the vice president for public affairs and government relations who, in turn, has delegated that day-to-day responsibility to the director of the Office of News & Communications. The director thus is responsible for final editing and review of material prepared for release to the news media from all areas of the university. The news service handles distribution of all university releases — with the exception of sports information. The Medical Center News Office handles distribution of its releases.

The Office of News & Communications works closely with local, national and international news media, including newspapers, radio and television, magazines, wire services, syndicates and Web publishers. It also maintains a website.

News service media activities include:

— Reporting, writing, editing and distributing news releases. These are designed to convey information of news value in a timely manner to the appropriate media.

— Preparation and distribution of news tips. These are brief releases designed to suggest story topics and sources for the news media, and to alert them about upcoming events.

— Twice each week we hold what we call “Rapid Response” meetings in which several communicators brainstorm about possible topics for news tips, news releases, etc.

— Production of Duke Today (www. duke.edu/today), which contains the latest stories, news releases, op-eds, media clips, a news archive with a search engine, and other information sources of interest to the news media and the general public.

— Production of The Week at Duke, a weekly e-mail newsletter that summarizes the top news and events, sent to more than 20,000 employees plus members of the public who sign up to receive it.

— Production of Duke Research, a bi-weekly e-newsletter for subscribers that highlights some of the personalities and programs that make research at Duke so engaging and enlightening.

— Personal contacts with local, national and international news media. These can be initiated by ONC staff, or in response to inquiries from media.

— Maintenance of the main Duke website (www.duke.edu) that contains a mixture of news, features, an events calendar, search engine, streaming audio and video and strategic links in order to convey the rich intellectual life of the campus.

— Arranging press conferences, briefings or other meetings with news media as appropriate.

— Preparation and distribution of background papers on significant research and issues involving the university. These backgrounders are designed to assist news media in developing their own stories as developments warrant and, in doing so, to highlight the contributions made by Duke, its faculty and students.

— Monitoring mentions of Duke in the news media.

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Many of the Office of News & Communications policies are applicable to all Duke offices that deal with the news media. The policies have three basic objectives: to assure consistency in communications with news media from all units at the university; to help maintain the high level of credibility the university enjoys in its dealings with the media; and to protect the reputation of the university, its students and faculty. Policy development is a continuing effort and the following pages represent the latest update.

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News & Communications staff members may have outside business interests as long as they do not interfere with university responsibilities, or constitute a conflict of interest, or create the appearance of a conflict of interest, with Duke University or the Duke News Service.


1. The ONC director should be notified in advance of any freelance writing projects.

2. If an ONC employee writes a freelance article using information gathered during the course of his/her work for the news service, then the payment for such article should be forwarded to the news service. The proceeds of such efforts are to be used to support professional activities of the news service staff. Such a situation most likely would arise when a staff member writes about a subject covered by his/her beat.

3. An ONC staffer writing for another organization must not be identified as a Duke University employee unless he or she receives permission, in writing, from the news service director.

4. All general university policies concerning outside activities apply to news service employees.

5. If in doubt about a possible conflict of interest situation, or if you have questions about this policy, ask the ONC director.

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The Office of News & Communications is an honest provider of information to the public.


The university is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, and truth is the cornerstone of knowledge. Needless to say, failure to provide accurate information to the public in general — and specifically to the news media — could damage the credibility of the university and diminish the effectiveness of the ONC in its relationships with news media.


There was at least one case at another university when public affairs officials gave out false information to protect the privacy of an individual. What happened in that case when the truth was revealed — as it always will be — was the credibility and integrity of the university and the news bureau were severely damaged.

There have been other cases in non-university settings where public affairs personnel dispensed information they thought was correct but which turned out to be false. ONC staffers should make every effort to ascertain that the information they receive from university sources is correct. If there is any doubt, don’t use it.

There are circumstances where there are legitimate legal, regulatory or privacy reasons not to provide information to the public. But in such cases, any information that is released must be accurate and not misleading. Check with the director if you have any question about the propriety of information released.

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All commercial, non-news photography or videotaping must be approved in advance by the Office of News & Communications’ director or the director of the Medical Center News Office (for medical center activities).

Here are the guidelines and policies for commercial filming at Duke:

Commercial use of Duke facilities

Duke University protects its name and landmarks from inappropriate commercial use but strives to cooperate with film and video producers desiring to use Duke facilities when it can be demonstrated their activities serve the university’s interest. Priority generally is given to those activities that can help support the educational missions of the university. The Office of News and Communications will use appropriate means to facilitate such endeavors.


1. All requests for commercial non-news filmmaking, videotaping or photography at Duke University should be directed to the Radio-Television Services manager in the Office of News and Communications. (Photography and videography for advertising purposes at Duke University Medical Center should be approved by the director of the Medical Center News Office.)

2. Final approval for any location filming request must come from the vice president for public affairs and government relations. Once approval has been granted, the Office of News and Communications (or, as appropriate, the Medical Center News Office) will be responsible for working with the production company and coordinating its efforts with all appropriate university offices.


The university will consider permitting the making of photographs, films and videotapes on campus for commercial non-news purposes on the basis of the following guidelines:

1. A production will be considered in terms of its size and complexity and to what degree it might disrupt classes and other normal campus activities. Whenever possible, production should be scheduled for weekends and during breaks in the academic calendar.

2. The university expects the production to offer educational and/or extracurricular experiences to Duke students. The university strongly encourages the use of students as extras and production assistants for on-campus productions. The university also encourages representatives of production companies to make themselves available for classroom discussion of their work. Duke also requires that upon completion, a copy of the production be donated to the university’s library.

3. Anyone wishing to film on campus for commercial non-news purposes must submit in writing detailed information about the propose project, including:

— locations;

— days and hours of shooting;

— number of people involved in each day’s shooting;

— type of activity to be filmed;

— list of equipment and vehicles used in connection with the filming;

— sizes and composition of structures involved.

— security and safety requirements.

This information and a script must be submitted to the manager of Radio-Television Services for review at least 30 days before the start of filming. This requirement can be waived at the discretion of the university in the case of small productions.

4. A walk-through of all proposed shooting locations must be conducted with an appropriate Duke representative at least 10 days in advance of the desired dates. After locations are given tentative approval, the production company must take part in an initial meeting with representatives of all the involved university departments.

5. A commercial general liability insurance certificate with limits of $1 million per occurrence, naming Duke University and its employees and agents as additional insureds, must be filed with the Director of the Office of News and Communications at least 10 days prior to the first set-up day. In addition, if the production company has three or more employees, it must furnish proof of Worker’s Compensation insurance.

6. The university reserves the right to require production companies to make a damage deposit prior to the arrival of any production vehicles on campus. The damage deposit will be refunded in full when the shooting locations are inspected by university officials and found to be in satisfactory condition. Special arrangements can be made for small productions.

7. Each production company will be charged a location fee. The standard fee is $10,000.00 per day or portion thereof. Any representation of official Duke logos or seals must be approved in advance of production. Charges for usage of proprietary Duke photographic images must be negotiated with the director of Duke University Photography. In addition, the production company will pay all incurred expenses such as those for electricians, food services, security, janitorial services, etc. Fees for set-up days will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Cancellation of a production within seven days of the start of filming will result in a charge not to exceed $5,000.00.

8. Duke University will prepare a letter of agreement, to be signed by the appropriate official of the production company and the university’s vice president of the Office of Public Affairs. A shoot will be considered confirmed when this contract has been signed by both parties. The contract must contain a hold-harmless clause approved by Duke University Counsel. The production company must provide Duke with an insurance certificate, damage deposit, check for full amount of location fee and signed contract at least 24 hours before set-up begins. At that point, the conditions in the contract become operative.

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It is news service policy to protect the university’s legal position in all matters that involve legal action, or potential legal action. Legal and privacy issues often require the maintenance of confidentiality that may preclude comment about a specific case or matter. Within appropriate legal constraints, it often is in the university’s interest to provide information to the public concerning our policies, procedures and practices to assist the public and other university audiences in understanding the context in which particular university decisions or actions are taken.


1. NO statement should be issued concerning a legal issue, or a potential legal issue, without first contacting the University Counsel and, if appropriate, Risk Management. Any statement concerning legal matters must first be reviewed by counsel for its legal (as opposed to public relations) implications.

2. Risk Management should be contacted concerning any issue that has the potential of involving a suit against the university. Such matters would include accidents and adverse patient results.


Office of Counsel: 684-3955

Pamela Bernard, General Counsel
Mark Gustafson, Deputy Counsel for Health Affairs
Kate Hendricks, Deputy University Counsel
Henry Cuthbert, Associate Counsel
Christy Gudaitis, Associate Counsel
Ralph McCaughan, Associate Counsel
Alene Mercer, Associate Counsel
David Singleton, Associate Counsel
Leighton Roper, Assistant Counsel

Risk Management:

Chris Boroski, Duke University, 684-6226

Bobbi Hendrix, Duke Medicine, 684-3277

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ONC employees should not use their positions, or knowledge gained from them, in such a way that a conflict would arise between the interest of the university and that of the individual.


1. Employees should not accept gifts, favors or hospitality that might influence their decision-making, compromise their judgment in actions affecting the university, or have the appearance of influencing decision-making or actions affecting the university.

2. Any actual or threatened violation of these prohibitions should be promptly disclosed to the director of News & Communications.

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News releases for coming events are prepared when those events are open to the public, or at least open to news coverage. The only exception to this policy would be when the event, in the judgment of the ONC director, is of such overriding importance to the public that an advance release in itself would be news.


A fundamental objective of Duke University is to expand knowledge. In addition to classes for its students, Duke conducts or sponsors seminars, lectures and other programs to educate members of the university community and those beyond. Therefore, most events at Duke are open to the public. On some occasions, events will not be open to the public because of space limitations, safety concerns, or a desire on the part of the sponsor or participant to conduct a private event. News releases of impending events are designed to spur public interest and participation in those events. It would be counterproductive to advertise an event and then bar press coverage.


1. Sponsors of events to which news media are barred should be informed of policy and, if appropriate, encouraged to open the event to news coverage.

2. News coverage may be limited, as appropriate, because of space constraints. Television cameras can be prohibited from the event if, in the event sponsor’s judgment, they would be disruptive. Television reporters without cameras or recording equipment should be given access if print reporters receive similar access. There should be no discrimination based on medium.

3. The ONC director has responsibility for determining whether an event is of such importance that it merits a release even if it is closed to the press.

4. Event sponsors are encouraged to contact the Office of News & Communications to discuss news coverage.

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The purpose of these guidelines is to help Duke communicators understand how Duke policies apply to new communications technologies such as blogs and social networking sites, and to guide them in using new social media platforms. The guidelines apply to material that Duke communications offices and related units publish on Duke-hosted websites and related Duke sites such as those on YouTube and Facebook. Any questions about these guidelines should be directed to socialmedia@duke.edu. Duke Medicine employees should refer to the specific Web standards and Facebook guidelines established for DukeHealth.org sites.


Blogs, social networks and websites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube are exciting new channels for Duke communicators and their colleagues to share knowledge and connect with key audiences, including students and others who may not consume traditional media as frequently as others. Duke supports this kind of participation in online communities and maintains its strong commitment to academic freedom in these channels. Because social media channels are fairly new and evolving every day, these guidelines were adapted from respected online and industry sources to provide guidance in using these forums effectively, protecting personal and professional reputation and following university policies.


Duke units and departments have wide latitude to create and maintain a presence on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. They should do so in ways that are professional, technically secure and transparent. Units and departments are responsible for ensuring that content posted by, or on behalf of, any unit or department adheres to all Duke University policies and to appropriate laws that govern the dissemination of public information. To that end, units and departments should periodically review the guidelines for social media established by the Office of News and Communications and consult with ONC if they have questions about their implementation:

Understand your strategy. Social media efforts should be part of a larger communications strategy. Know what you’re trying to accomplish, and why. Who is your audience? What do you want them to do? Is social media the best way to do this?

Follow all applicable Duke University policies. For example, you must not share confidential or proprietary information about Duke University. Among the policies most pertinent to this discussion are those concerning government affairsmutual respectcomputer, e-mail & Internet use and student financial aid.

Everything is public. There’s no such thing as a “private” social media site. Search engines can turn up your posts years later. Don’t post something today that may haunt you later.

Be respectful. If readers see your affiliation with Duke, they may read your words as representing the university, even if you provide a disclaimer saying your views are your own. As a general rule, be respectful and don’t post anything you would be uncomfortable saying in a public setting. Follow the Duke Guiding Principles and the Duke Community Standard.

Be transparent about your role at Duke. If you participate in or maintain a social media site on behalf of the university, clearly state your role and goals. Strive for accuracy, correcting errors quickly and visibly. If you have questions about whether it is appropriate to write about certain material, ask your supervisor first.

Maintain confidentiality. Do not post confidential, proprietary or protected health information about students, employees, patients or other members of the Duke community. Use good ethical judgment. All federal guidelines such as FERPAHIPAA and university policies such as the Duke Confidentiality Agreement must be observed on Duke-sponsored or Duke-maintained social media sites.

Protect your identity. Don’t provide personal information about yourself or others that scam artists and identity thieves might steal.

Moderate comments and discussions. By their nature, social networking sites are participatory and involve sharing among multiple users. However, it is important to monitor live discussions for off-topic or abusive comments. Whenever possible, moderate comments and be transparent about doing so by including language similar to the comments policy on Duke University’s Facebook Fan Page.

Respect university time and property. As stated in Duke’s “Computing and Networking: Acceptable Use” policy, university computers and work time are to be used for university-related business. It’s appropriate to post at work if your comments are directly related to accomplishing work goals, but maintain your personal site on your own time using non-Duke computers.

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It is the policy of Duke University to publicly report significant campus crimes that threaten or affect its students and university community.

It is also the policy of the university to publicly report arrests of its members, including students, for serious criminal offenses that may affect the university. These include arrests made by Duke Police and, in some circumstances, by other law enforcement agencies.


1. This policy addresses public news releases sent to media outlets and/or posted online. Releases may be posted on the DUPD and/or ONC websites. Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, or his/her designee, has the final authority for decisions about news releases and related communications issues.

2. The public information officer for the Duke University Police Department (DUPD), working in collaboration with the Office of Communication Services or others as needed, will gather the information on an incident or arrest and generate a news release. The release will be approved by the Office of News and Communications (ONC) in consultation with the director of DUPD and will be disseminated by DUPD and ONC collaboratively.

3. DUPD, in collaboration with ONC, will notify other Duke administrators and/or communicators when a significant campus crime or serious arrest involves their unit(s). Working in coordination with DUPD and ONC, these units may initiate their own communications outreach; the Office of Student Affairs, for example, has the primary responsibility for using broadcast email or other tools to notify undergraduate students of potential threats to their safety.

4. For the purpose of this policy, significant campus crimes that will generally prompt a public news release are homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, arson and hate crimes.

5. Duke will generally not issue public news releases on sex crimes unless they represent a serious or continuing threat to the safety of students, employees and/or the community. In instances when a public news release is generated on a sex crime, Duke – which seeks to protect the confidentiality of sexual assault survivors – will not release the name of or clearly identifiable information about the victim. Similarly, it will protect the confidentiality of students, employees and/or community members involved in other kinds of “relationship violence.” Law enforcement reports and other official documents relating to a sex crime or relationship violence may eventually become public record in the criminal justice system.

6. Duke may also issue public news releases for other serious offenses — and arrests — for such crimes as kidnapping, high-value property crime, identity theft, computer-related crimes and drunken driving resulting in injury or death. Because alleged crimes and criminal charges vary in circumstances and severity, an ad hoc review may be necessary to determine whether a public news release is warranted.

7. University members charged with serious crimes will generally be identified in a public news release by name, age, street address or residence hall and, when relevant, position or campus affiliation.

8. Information for public dissemination must come from the university police department, investigating agency and/or other university officials, and must be verified. All facts in the news release must be attributed to a source such as an official or police incident report.

9. Suspects should not be identified until they are charged with an offense.

10. Following the initial release, and upon consultation with Duke Police, a news conference or other actions may be initiated to assist reporters seeking information about an incident(s) of potential public interest.

11. The Duke Police public information officer and ONC will make every effort to assist the news media and to facilitate accurate coverage of an event. However, reporters do not have a right to enter a crime scene.

12. Duke University will update news releases of arrests in its electronic database by including final court dispositions. In some instances, a subject’s name may be removed depending on the court disposition or severity of the criminal charge. The event, however, will remain online to maintain a record in the ONC archive.

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It is the policy of Duke University to publicly report all instances of real or potential threats to the health of Duke employees, students, patients, or visitors arising from a contagious infection of the type generally considered to be a public health concern among one or more of the aforementioned groups. The threat could come from a food-borne pathogen, from an accidental release of a toxic substance or from similar occurrence at the university or medical center.


1. All such reports should be prepared by the Office of News & Communications, or the Medical Center News Office for hospital events, in collaboration with other pertinent university offices or departments. The reports will be released by the ONC.

2. All such releases should attribute information to university medical or safety authorities — and to authorities outside the university as necessary — and should contain attributed background information to place the event in the proper overall perspective.

3. No information may be released until it is verified by appropriate officials.

4. Standard privacy and confidentiality constraints apply.

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It is the policy of the Office of News & Communications to rely on the Medical Center News Office to provide basic Duke Hospital patient condition reports to news media. This should be done without compromising a patient’s right of confidentiality. If a patient requires that NO information be released, the patient’s desire takes precedence.


1. Only members of the MCNO are permitted — after consultation with appropriate offices or officials — to release patient condition reports to news media.

2. Information about a psychiatric patient should NOT be released to news media under any circumstances.

3. In accordance with HIPAA (the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), the only information that may be released to media about a patient is his/her condition: deceased; critical; serious; fair; good; or treated and released. The date and time of death may not be released. No other information may be released to the news media unless the patient has provided written authorization.

4. It is the policy of the Medical Center News Office not to provide any information to media on patients who are victims of violent crimes (these include shootings, stabbings, assault, sexual abuse and child abuse). Information will only be provided for patients who are listed on the hospital directory.

In mass casualty incidents, the Medical Center News Office will release only the numbers of patients and their conditions (e.g., we have 5 patients in critical condition and 3 patients in fair condition from that incident).

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Duke University respects the privacy of students, patients and employees and follows all appropriate local, state and federal guidelines and statutes affecting privacy and confidentiality.



1. The federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 limits the disclosure of information from a student’s education records to only basic “directory” facts. Information that can be disclosed without a student’s consent includes name, addresses, telephone number, major field of study, participation in university activities and sports, weight and height for athletes, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received and the most recent previous educational institution attended. That information will be withheld if a student so requests.


1. Federal and state statutes prohibit the release of confidential patient information without the patient’s prior authorization. Access to patient information is determined on a “need to know” basis. Those who need to know the information to perform their jobs in the medical center are entitled to the information — and are bound by the obligation of confidentiality. Condition reports are available from the Medical Center News Office.


1. Two work rules for Duke University employees address confidentiality. The first prohibits the use of another individual’s computer sign-on or computer access code or providing another the use of an individual’s sign-on code without proper authorization, to gain unauthorized access to confidential or privileged information. The second prohibits “behavior which compromises another’s safety or privacy, or discloses confidential university information, including medically-related records.”

2. The Office of Human Resources will verify personnel employment over the telephone. Payroll information will not be given out to a bank making a credit check, for example, without a signed request from the employee.

3. Included among information that will not be released outside the university are any data which would selectively advantage or disadvantage individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, sex, age or handicap.

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Duke communications offices should treat all news outlets equally for breaking news. This means one news organization should not be given a break over another except under special circumstances discussed below.


Just as Duke University expects media to treat the university fairly, media expect the university to treat them fairly. While it may be advantageous to Duke to give one news organization an exclusive on a certain story, in the long run such a practice would be detrimental to Duke because other news organizations would lose confidence in their relationship with the university. All units of Duke must avoid playing favorites for the sake of expediency. Violation of this principle by one unit could have a university-wide impact.


1. If a news organization is alone pursuing a story at Duke, the information given to that news organization should not be shared with competing organizations unless they independently request such information. In other words, a news organization’s own exclusive should not be violated by Duke.

2. It would be appropriate to work with a specific news organization on a story in which that organization has expressed a specific interest. Such a story should not be of the type that would be considered “breaking news” by competing organizations but which would be more of a trend piece.

3. It is appropriate to identify a specific news organization for possible op-eds, commentary articles and timeless features.

4. When selecting news organizations to which releases should be sent or telephone contacts made, decisions should be based on a writer’s or editor’s judgment on whether that organization or journalist would be interested in the information. This decision should be aided by past experience with the specific organization/journalist and past requests for such releases or information.

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Sharing news about the financial support Duke University receives from alumni and supporters is important. It helps acknowledge the generosity of Duke’s donors and promotes the people, programs, facilities and activities that donors support. The Office of News & Communications’ (ONC) policy supports the university’s fundraising efforts to the fullest extent possible, consistent with journalistic practices and sound news judgment.


The policy’s purpose is to help integrate and maximize public relations efforts across the university. The university considers four key elements when determining an effective public relations strategy: the university’s needs and priorities; the donor’s request; promotion through university-produced publications, websites and social media; and best practices and standards to work with the media.

These guidelines are particularly important during the intense period of a university-wide campaign or initiative, when gifts of many types and magnitudes are solicited from donors by development officers. Given the increased level of activity during a campaign, it is critical that the university undertakes strategic communications and media relations as effectively as possible.


To support the university’s fundraising objectives, ONC, the Duke Medicine Office of News and Communications and Duke University Development Marketing and Communications oversee the writing, editing, distribution and promotion of news releases about gifts and grants. They do this in close coordination with schools, programs and units, and in accordance with the following guidelines, which have been approved by the university’s senior leadership. These guidelines apply to content that appears in publications, social media, websites, e-mail communications and other communications that come from all Duke offices.

1. Before a gift may be announced in any Duke communication, it must be recognized officially as a gift or pledge and entered appropriately in the university’s gift records system, DADD.

2. Public announcement of a gift or grant must be approved in principle by the following individuals – the vice president for alumni affairs and development (or his/her designee, Duke Development’s executive director of development marketing and communications), the vice president for Duke Medicine development and alumni affairs (or his/her designee, Duke Medicine Development’s director of communications), the vice president for public affairs and government relations (or his/her designee, the associate vice president for news and communications) and by the donor(s). No announcement will be made without the consent of the aforementioned.

3. ONC, Duke Development’s executive director of development marketing and communications or the Duke Medicine Office of News and Communications will consider preparing and distributing a news release announcing any gift or grant that might be viewed by media outlets as newsworthy. Gifts are most likely to attract media interest if they are large in size (generally $1 million or more), are associated with new or innovative programs or facilities or have a strong human interest angle and a compelling story.

4. Gift announcements will generally be made by the president of the university; other officers, administrators or faculty may be asked to make the announcement when appropriate.

5. A news release or media announcement promoting a gift or grant must include the amount of money involved. A large gift may be newsworthy even if the donor prefers to remain anonymous, but no gift of unspecified amount is newsworthy, no matter who the donor may be, and can damage the credibility of both the institution and the donor.

6. In general, if Duke has previously announced a $5 million+ gift from a donor to any area of the university, that gift should be mentioned again in a release about a new gift. If Duke has previously announced a gift in the $1-$5 million range, it may be appropriate to mention the earlier gift in a release about a new gift; appropriate development staff should be consulted.

7. It is Duke policy not to disclose any information about specific gifts or donors, or their prior and/or cumulative giving to Duke, without the donor’s permission. Further, the university does not disclose terms, conditions or payment schedules for any gift or donor.


1. A writer from ONC, the Duke Medicine Office of News and Communications or Duke Development Marketing and Communications — depending on the department to which the gift or grant was made — will prepare a gift announcement in consultation with appropriate development staff. For a gift to a school or unit, the school- or unit-based director of communications may prepare the gift announcement for review as outlined below.

For a gift to a school or unit, the school- or unit-based director of communications may prepare the gift announcement for review as outlined below.

2. In order to determine if there are other university or development announcements occurring during the same period, which could affect coverage of the gift, the writer should reach out to ONC or the Duke Development Marketing and Communications office to discuss the best timing for the announcement.

3. The writer should confer with Duke Development’s executive director of development marketing and communications, who will confirm that the gift has been properly documented and, as needed, will consult with the senior development counsel and/or director of alumni and development records regarding any complications in the gift agreement or in Duke’s ability to announce the gift.

4. The writer is responsible for determining what further internal approvals of the release draft are necessary, and for obtaining these approvals, as well as for suggesting a schedule. The writer also will consult with the development officer on the timing of the release. The ONC director will oversee final editing, scheduling and distribution plans for all releases. If ONC makes substantive changes, the appropriate parties will be asked to provide additional review. Medical Center news releases will go through the Duke Medicine Office of News and Communications.

5. After the draft has received approval within the campus, the writer or development officer will send the draft to the donor for approval and, at that time, will seek approval for any quote or comment to be included in the news release. The writer or development officer may not send the draft to the donor for review until it has been reviewed and approved by all of the Duke offices involved in this process. The ONC director will review any significant changes proposed by the donor and make final decisions about the content and timing of the release. Duke will respect the wishes of a donor who asks to remain anonymous or who prefers not to be quoted, but who has no objections to the release of other information about the gift.

6. No release or gift announcement will appear in official Duke media (Duke Today, Duke Magazine, etc.), online or in social media until the steps outlined above have been confirmed. The president of the university has final authority and responsibility for determining the official dissemination of all news from Duke University. The president has delegated that authority to the vice president for public affairs and government relations, who has in turn delegated to the ONC director day-to-day responsibility for ensuring the accuracy, timeliness, completeness and professionalism of communications with the news media.

NOTE: It is important to note that institutional credibility is undermined when official Duke sources present incomplete or incorrect information, and when the external media are presented with — and thus dismiss — a release that contains “news” unlikely to interest non-Duke audiences. Publicizing a gift that has not been properly documented and recorded — or without fully understanding possible complexities regarding the gift agreement or legal donor — can adversely affect the donor and the university.

Click here to read a Checklist for Publicizing a Gift to Duke.

[Policy updated May 2011]


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Duke University welcomes news media to campus just as the public is welcome to the campus. But neither the public nor reporters have a right to indiscriminate access to Duke buildings or other facilities. It is ONC policy to be as helpful as possible to news media seeking access to facilities while upholding the university’s mission of teaching, research and patient care and maintaining the reasonable privacy expectation of students and others.


1. Because television equipment may interfere with traffic or university activities, television crews must seek permission from the Office of News & Communications (or the Medical Center News Office in the case of medical center property) to set up to videotape or broadcast live from campus, and they must park in designated areas. Such permission generally will be granted for exterior work as long as it does not interfere with university operations. In certain situations, Duke may limit television broadcasting to specific locations.

2. In general, representatives of the news media not using cameras do not need permission to enter the campus or to take exterior still photographs for news purposes. However, access may be denied or limited, and pool cameras or reporting may be required, during an emergency or in situations when ONC determines that unrestricted media access may become inappropriately disruptive. Its goal will be for students, faculty and other members of the Duke community to carry out their activities with a reasonable expectation of privacy and normality while remaining free to speak openly with the media if they choose to do so.

3. News media representatives must seek permission from the appropriate office (ONC, MCNO, or school public affairs office) if they want to enter classrooms, medical facilities, laboratories or similar facilities for the purpose of reportage. Such permission generally will be granted as long as the reporting activities do not disrupt university activities; interfere with the privacy of students, patients, faculty or staff; or jeopardize the safety of university personnel, visitors or facilities. MCNO pays special attention to HIPAA and other regulations involving patient confidentiality. Residence halls are closed to news media except in rare cases with special advance arrangement.

4. All commercial, non-news photography or videotaping must be approved in advance by the ONC director or the director of Medical Center News Office for medical center activities.

5. ONC may provide The Chronicle with special access to information or events, in recognition of its unique role as the student-run campus newspaper.

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The land and facilities of Duke University are private property and are used primarily for the conduct of instruction, research, general university programs and related administrative uses. Use of university land or facilities shall be permitted when consistent with these functions and with the university’s status as a tax-exempt educational institution. Uses of Duke University land and facilities must conform to all applicable laws related to the proposed use. The university reserves the right to deny use of its lands and facilities to individuals and entities, consistent with applicable federal, state, and university policies regarding discrimination.

This procedure is applicable to all Duke University land and facilities in Durham, including off-campus locations but excluding the Duke Forest and the Duke University Medical Center. Procedures for the Duke Forest and Medical Center are available from the offices of the dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment, and the chancellor for Health Affairs, respectively.

Buildings and Structures

Regularly scheduled educational programs have absolute priority of use for all facilities. After this priority is observed, the facilities of the university will normally be made available to other users in the following order of priority. Exceptions to the normal priorities may be permitted by the president or provost where the interests ofthe university so require. Requests for use of facilities should be made to the specific facility or, if not known, to the Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs and Governmental Relations at (919) 681-3788.

Use by University Community

Priority is given to academic departments, schools, and academic programs of the university for educational purposes; followed by university employees, students, officially recognized groups and organizations (defined as student organizations, honor societies, fraternities, sororities, and religious associations officially recognized by the university) for educational purposes; university related groups and organizations (defined as groups and organizations not officially recognized oraffiliated with the university, but related because of the promotion of interest of the university community, the academic professions and related interests of the faculty, students or staff, or which perform other services to the university and its community, such as credit unions, educational-related professional associations and fraternities, employee organizations, student-run businesses, charitable community organizations, other public educational institutions) for mission-related purposes; and then national and regional organizations in which the university maintains an official membership formission-related purposes.

Outside Users

University facilities are not normally made available to users other than members of the university community. When made available to outside users, the use shall be on a contract basis and a fee will be charged. All requests by outside users should normally be made to the appropriate office with sufficient notice as may be required. When in doubt, outside users should contact the vice president for public affairs and governmental relations at (919) 681-3788.

Outdoor Areas

Events and activities on the grounds of the campus, including use of sound amplification equipment and construction for exhibits orother purposes, must be approved in advance and in writing by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs (see www.studentaffairs.duke.edu) for student groups and by Event Management for all other users (see http://events.duke.edu).

Commercial Use

Commercial enterprises will not be afforded use of University facilities for profit-making or advertising purposes. Exceptions to this policy may be made by the VicePresident for Public Affairs and Governmental Relations (see https://newsoffice.duke.edu/filming-campus) upon a showing that the use will further the educational or academic mission ofDuke University. For instance, a theatrical production may be afforded use ofuniversity facilities even if the production is for profit-making purposes. Any commercial activity on thegrounds of the campus must be approved in advance and in writing by the Vice President for Public Affairs and Governmental Relations.

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Publicizing Duke University’s involvement in or establishment of community projects designed to benefit and support Durham is essential to the kind of positive, symbiotic relationship between the university and the city that James B. Duke called for in the 1924 Duke Indenture and that Duke presidents and trustees have reaffirmed over the years. In support of this institutional objective, staff writers at the Office of News & Communications and the Medical Center News Office, and occasionally communications staffers based in departments or professional schools, write news releases or use other strategies to communicate Duke’s role in community-related activities. Such communications are distributed to the appropriate internal and external audiences in accordance with the following guidelines and considerations.


1. Promotion of, or publicity related to a community-related program, project or event undertaken by Duke parties must be approved in principle by the vice president for public affairs and the ONC director, in consultation with the director of the Office of Government Relations and Community Affairs.

2. The decision to write a news release on the project or event will be based on the news value of the story, as determined by the ONC director or his/her designee. Also involved in discussions about the release might be representatives of the office of government relations and community affairs and staff writers from the ONC, the Medical Center News Office and other communications offices across campus.

3. The privacy of those pivotal to such a story is an important consideration. We should not quote or name community members if they seek privacy, even when their participation would make a better news story or show Duke’s role in the community in a more positive light. In most cases, there are several people affected by the project who might be appropriate and willing to participate in a story originating at Duke. Often, even those community members who prefer to remain anonymous have no problem with the release of other information about the project or activity.

4. Releases and other communications dealing with the community should reflect awareness of, and sensitivity to important issues, such as economic or minority status of those featured in the story as well as the audience.

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The basic rule is to use common sense and avoid sending releases to people who clearly will have no interest in them. We hear constantly that journalists, particularly daily news reporters, are overwhelmed with releases. We have a much better chance of getting our release read if we regularly send only releases likely to be used, or at least likely to be saved for future use or reference. The following guidelines are based on that foregoing premise.


1. The writer of a release is responsible for creating a distribution list. Lists are normally created by using the Vocus media database. Mailing list categories are all inclusive. You are encouraged to be selective when assembling a distribution list from our Web-based database.

2. Always fax or e-mail releases to wire services. Rationale: Wires have a “deadline every minute” and therefore must receive releases asap. This includes embargoed releases because they are written and transmitted ahead of time on a hold-for-release basis unless wire movement is specifically prohibited.

3. For the AP, if you have a significant spot medical news story, check first with an AP science writer to see who will handle. Rationale: All releases go to the AP in Raleigh, at their request; if we send the release to someone else in AP, we attach a note telling the AP in Raleigh this is the case. They will therefore assume someone else is handling and if the other AP reporter to whom we send the release decides not to do it, it won’t get done.

4. Be careful when you send spot news releases to more than one person in an organization, particularly to news services (see No. 3) and newspapers. It is suggested that you advise the recipients who else may also be receiving it. Some organizations, particularly broadcast networks, request that releases be sent to different reporters and producers. Rationale: If people at a news service or newspaper find that we are sending duplicate spot news releases to that organization, they may assume someone else is handling and it won’t get done. The situation is different at networks and for magazines because immediacy may not be an issue or one department or show may decide to handle it while another may not. A newspaper or wire will run only one story; different shows at one network may use different versions of the same story.

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Consistent with Duke University’s conflict of interest policy, Duke University and the Duke University Health System must avoid the appearance of any possible conflict of interest in the reporting to the public of news and research advances of Duke faculty and other university researchers. The university recognizes that industry-sponsored research is important and that there may be situations where the university and/or individual faculty members will have a financial or other interest in a company sponsoring research. However, all ties must be disclosed in any news releases or other publicity material concerning the research products.


The university assumes, consistent with existing policies, that there is no conflict of interest involving any research conducted by Duke investigators. The goal of this policy is to address the possibility of the appearance of a conflict of interest.


1. All news releases, including Internet, audio and video materials, must identify the sponsor of research. If this information is not provided by the researcher or in the research report, the reporter from the Office of News & Communications or Medical Center News Office writing the release should request such information. Releases will not be distributed until that information is obtained.

2. If the university or health system holds a financial or other interest in the company sponsoring the research, or in a company that may be involved in developing or marketing the research product, this information must be reported in the news material reporting on any resulting research.

3. If the researcher holds a financial or other interest in the sponsoring company, or in a company that may be involved in developing or marketing the research product, or if the researcher has received income from the sponsoring company for lectures, consultation or similar activity, that fact must be disclosed in the news material.

4. The president has given general responsibility for the dissemination of all official university news to the vice president for public affairs and government relations who, in turn, has delegated that day-to-day responsibility to the ONC director. The director thus is responsible for determining that this policy has been followed in material prepared for release to news media from all areas of the university and health system. The vice president for public affairs and government relations will exercise final approval, as required.

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Duke University is committed to developing relationships with corporations that can enhance Duke’s role in the advancement of knowledge and as a leader in education, research, and patient care. This policy has been developed to support that commitment. It governs how Duke University media relations offices will work with Duke’s Office of Science and Technology and/or corporate partners to communicate information about such relationships and the research and/or education advances they produce. The policy recognizes the responsibility of Office of News & Communications (ONC) and Medical Center News Office (MCNO) is to support the academic missions of Duke University and Duke University Medical Center to communicate news of research and discoveries accurately to Duke’s many audiences, and to ensure that the institution’s good name and reputation are properly protected.


The overarching goals of this policy are to:

— Recognize the importance of strong and mutually beneficial ties between the university and its corporate partners;

— Promote the dissemination of new basic and applied knowledge, as part of the university’s missions of research, education, public service and patient care;

— Communicate clearly the role of the university and its corporate partners and technology licensees in expanding basic knowledge and, where applicable, informing the public about the applied products of that knowledge;

— Protect the integrity and credibility of the Duke name among the media and the public by monitoring the content and context in which Duke’s name is used in publicity materials;

— Ensure that publicity does not contain information that would compromise the non‑profit tax‑exempt status of the university.


1. For university entities, the ONC director or his designee is the chief liaison between Duke’s Office of Science and Technology (OST) and the Office of Research Support (ORS) and the ONC. For medical center entities, the director of the MCNO is the chief liaison between OST and ONC.

2. The ONC or MCNO director will make every effort to provide the most efficient and effective customer service to the OST and the ORS and their corporate collaborators, creating and fostering a productive working relationship between the corporate entity and Duke’s media relations offices.

3. Before agreements are signed, OST or ORS will provide a copy of the attached policy on communications and corporate partnerships to the corporate partner. This will ensure that there is a common understanding concerning Duke’s communication commitments before corporate licensing agreements are signed.

4. Whenever possible, it is desirable, before corporate agreements are signed, for OST or ORS to notify the ONC or MCNO director of the impending agreement.

5. The ONC or MCNO director will work with the corporate partner’s public relations office and, as appropriate, will consult with the director of ONC to develop a brief communication plan for announcing the initial agreement.

6. A Duke release on a research result will be written, if deemed newsworthy, as or after the finding is published in a peer-reviewed journal or presented at an appropriate scientific meeting.

7. Consistent with university policy, Duke requires approval of the use of its name in all publicity materials. As delegated by the vice president for public affairs and government relations, the ONC director and the associate vice chancellor for health affairs exercise supervision of the use of Duke’s name for the university and medical center, respectively, in all materials for news media, including those associated with corporate partnerships. The ONC director also exercises supervision over descriptions of Duke research and applied technologies, to ensure that they are portrayed accurately and fairly. As required, the senior vice president will exercise final approval over the use of the university’s name.

8. To achieve appropriate public understanding of the importance of Duke corporate relationships, the ONC and MCNO will be prepared to communicate as appropriate through news releases and electronic means news and research advances produced by Duke and its corporate collaboration. Notwithstanding this commitment to collaboration, Duke’s media relations offices will not produce publicity or marketing materials for collaborative enterprises or their products.

Predictable Questions and Possible Answers for Faculty

Subject to their availability and interest, it may often be useful for faculty and researchers at Duke University and Duke University Medical Center to respond to media inquiries about corporate partnerships. The following information has been prepared to assist faculty and researchers who may be interviewed. Members of the ONC and MCNO are available to assist and advise faculty members who participate in such interviews. The following questions and answers were developed to assist faculty and researchers in the event they receive media inquiries.

Q. What if I am asked about my relationships with corporations?

A. Answer truthfully about your relationship with corporations. If you have a financial relationship with a corporation, e.g. you receive support for your research or you or a member of your family have a financial interest in the corporation, you should acknowledge that, but do not feel you are under any obligation to reveal the details of the financial aspects of that involvement. You should feel comfortable pointing out that corporate involvement by faculty ‑‑ whether as consultants or as the recipients of corporate research funds ‑‑ is critical to successfully applying basic discoveries to new products that benefit the public and create jobs.

Q. Why doesn’t the federal government retain patent rights to discoveries by university‑based researchers?

A. In 1980, the U.S. Congress passed the Bayh‑Dole Act to create incentives for the government, universities and industry to work together in the commercialization of new technologies for the public benefit. The Bayh‑Dole Act sets uniform guidelines for patents resulting from university research and provides that such patent rights be given to the university. This “certainty of title” to inventions made under federal funding is the most important incentive for commercialization. It ensures that the university will be able to accept funding from interested research partners in the future. Congress and federal agencies recognize that research is more likely to be funded by industry and to be made available to the public if the universities retain the title than if the government does.

Q. Why doesn’t the university reimburse the federal government for its funding of basic research, using money from patents?

A. When it approved the Bayh‑Dole Act, Congress specifically intended to promote a three-way, government-university-industry research partnership as the first step in increasing technology development in the United States. Enormous benefit to the U.S. economy has accrued from the government investment in basic research as a result of this act. Universities use the income from patents to build their research capability and educational programs, which in turn benefit the partnership and the public. In addition, under terms of the act, the government enjoys royalty-free licenses to use federally funded inventions throughout the world for government purposes. In this manner, the products of public investment become available for public use.

Q. Does Duke have a patent policy? How does it work?

A. Basically, the university retains patent rights to all inventions and discoveries produced by faculty and staff using its facilities. The university shares its patent income with the faculty who developed the invention or made the discovery.

Q. Is there a conflict of interest policy that governs your relationships with corporations?

A. Yes. Duke faculty are required to annually disclose any potential conflicts of interest; these are reviewed by the appropriate administrators and actions taken if any conflicts are found.

Q. How much income has Duke received so far from patent licensing and royalty income?

A. In fiscal year 2009, Duke University received $25 million in patent licensing royalty income. Such income is invested in academic and research programs.

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Duke University values its relationships with companies that provide its goods and services, which range from software products to medical equipment or personnel services. It also recognizes that these companies have a legitimate interest in publicizing their good work with Duke, which may attract new customers and reflect well on Duke itself. Simultaneously, the university must avoid any publicity that may compromise the integrity of Duke University, the independence of the Duke name and both the fact and appearance of Duke’s nonprofit status. As a matter of policy, therefore, Duke will not approve any quotation, news release or other communication that may be construed as an official endorsement by Duke University or any of its component units of a company’s products or services.

Duke’s contracts with vendors reinforce this policy, stating that “Contractor shall not in any way or in any form publicize or advertise in any manner the fact it is providing products or services to the University without the express written approval of the University’s Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Government Relations, obtained in advance, for each item of advertising or publicity.  However, nothing herein shall preclude Contractor from listing the University on its routine client list for matters of reference.”


1. Communications officers for the various units generally take the lead in working with their staff on company requests for Duke assistance with articles, videos or other materials about how the company has worked with the unit.

2. Any references by the company to Duke should be limited to statements of fact, such as that Duke is a customer of Company X or has purchased a certain piece of equipment. The reference must avoid enthusiastic phrases such as “as a result of buying Product Y, Duke saved a million dollars,” “it was the solution Duke had been waiting for” or anything else that may be construed as an endorsement.

3. Approved materials should avoid quotations from Duke employees who worked with the company. If included, such quotes should be flat in tone, avoiding any appearance of endorsement. Thus, it is fine to say “we hired Company X to help us address this problem” but unacceptable to say “it’s been great to work with the people at Company X, who have been so responsive to our needs.”

4. ONC and/or the Medical Center News Office, as appropriate, must review and approve quotations, news releases and any other materials mentioning Duke before the company may make them public. Duke will not provide prior approval for such materials or sign agreements that limit its explicit oversight.

5. This policy extends to company requests to shoot film on the Duke campus, use the Duke logo or otherwise make use of the university’s “brand,” which may only be done with explicit prior permission and in accordance with Duke policy.

6. Corporate collaborations involving scientific and technical advances are covered by a related policy, which is consistent with this one. Medical faculty and others who interact with pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and similar kinds of companies, including related educational activities, should consult with the Medical Center News Office.

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Consistent with the institution’s traditions of openness and concern for the well-being of its community members, Duke University and the Duke University Health System (DUHS) are committed to providing timely alerts of significant computer security violations.


Like other major universities, Duke maintains numerous databases that, in some cases, contain confidential information about employees, students, patients or others. It has extensive systems to protect against hacking and other threats. However, with the rise of identity theft and other trends, no systems can be considered invulnerable, and institutions should determine in advance the values and goals that will guide their response to a problem. Duke recognizes that its long-term credibility and success depend on acting forthrightly. Thus, in cases where the confidentiality of personal information may be compromised, its primary goals will be to remedy the problem and provide those affected with timely, helpful support in responding to the situation.


1. The Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Duke Health Technology Services (DHTS), in cooperation with other units, have primary responsibility for information technology and issues involving computer security. According to their procedures, potential security problems should receive an immediate response and be reported quickly to an appropriate level of management and response.

2. The heads of OIT and DHTS, or their designees, have the responsibility to alert senior management quickly of possible security violations. They should simultaneously alert the university’s associate vice president for news and communications and/or the health system’s vice president for communications, government and community relations.

3. If the computer violation affects confidential information such as (but not limited to) patient or financial data, appropriate senior leaders and others should assemble quickly to determine next steps. Appropriate members of the university’s Office of News and Communications (ONC) and/or the Medical Center News Office (MCNO), as well as those charged with communication within OIT and/or DHTS, should be included.

4. In developing appropriate communications for both internal and external audiences, the institution recognizes the tension that exists between gathering all of the information about a situation and providing rapid notification to those who may be affected. The needs of law enforcement may also affect when notification can begin. As a general matter, however, Duke errs on the side of openness, providing notification as quickly and completely as possible of significant computer security situations. Simultaneously, it seeks to avoid needless panic, helping affected persons and others to understand and respond effectively to a situation. It also seeks to avoid alerting potential hackers to system vulnerabilities.

5. Those affected will be contacted directly through appropriate, perhaps multiple, means. Duke will also make public what it has learned about significant events, turning to appropriate OIT and DHTS experts for assistance in explaining the situation to reporters and others. By delegation of the university’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, the associate vice president of news and communications is responsible for the final editing and review of material prepared for release to the news media from all areas of the university.

6. The same goals and procedures outlined here should guide the response to problems that occur within departments or otherwise outside the direct control of OIT or DHTS.

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When a release is drafted announcing news that involves more than one Duke school or department, each unit involved should be fairly represented in the release and be given the opportunity to review it with adequate time to comment before distribution.


From time to time, news releases are sent to ONC that announce interdisciplinary collaborations — such as a new center or a program — that involve more than one Duke school and/or department. Typically, a communications officer in one school/department takes the lead in drafting the release. In the interest of both accuracy and collegiality, the release should fairly portray the contributions of all the units. The communications officer of the originating unit should send a draft to the communicator(s) at the other unit(s) with adequate time for review and comment before a draft is officially submitted to ONC. The units should cooperate on the language of the release and on strategies that will fairly promote the interests of all the relevant stakeholders.


1. It is the responsibility of the communications officer who drafts the release to confer with his/her appropriate colleagues before sending the release to ONC for editing and distribution.

2. Once ONC receives the release, it will check with the communications officer who drafted the release to make sure this procedure has been followed.

3. In cases where units disagree about the content of a release or related strategies, ONC will be responsible for developing a jointly acceptable approach. Consistent with university policy, ONC has the final authority for a release’s content.

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The Office of News & Communications encourages the use of links in online news releases and other Web materials, to provide readers with useful information. Links should give preference to other Duke sites but may also direct readers elsewhere, including to non-academic or corporate sites. To avoid inappropriate implications, links should be clearly identified as supplementary material and be accompanied by a disclaimer along the lines of: “These related sites are not part of Duke University, and their listing does not imply any endorsement by the university.”


The ONC strives to provide the most accurate and complete account of news from the university. Such a policy is in Duke’s best interest because it enhances the credibility of releases and increases the likelihood that reporters and others will view the material as authoritative and reliable, which in turn means they will be more likely to turn to Duke again for information.

To that end, online news releases from Duke may include links to outside sources that will be useful to reporters or other audiences, such as physicians reading a medical news release, or lawyers reading news from the law school. The links should give preference to other Duke sites but should be recognized as being more than an internal marketing tool. Their primary purpose is to assist readers by guiding them to useful sources of information, including those outside the academic community. Similarly, Duke sites may seek links from sites that are trusted and appropriate. In all cases, links should be clearly labeled and accompanied by a disclaimer saying that they do not imply an endorsement of any kind by Duke University.

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The style of the Office of News & Communications is to avoid the use of “doctor” or the listing of degrees after a person’s name. There is one specific exception. For Medical Center News Office releases only, the first reference to a person’s name may note whether the person holds the M.D. and/or Ph.D. degrees. Thus: “John Smith, M.D., and Laura Jones, Ph.D., announced Tuesday . . .” On second reference, only a person’s last name should be used, without being preceded by “Dr.” (“Smith said,” “according to Jones”). In a “Note to editors,” which typically provides faculty contact information or information about images, MCNO releases may refer to a faculty member as “Dr.” on first reference, but only if he or she is an M.D. or Ph.D. Only the last name should be used in subsequent references.

For all other releases distributed through Office of News & Communications, only a person’s last name should be used on first or later references. Both MCNO and other releases may recognize other types of professional degrees when describing a person, such as “Laura Jones, who holds a doctor of divinity degree, said. . . .”


The ONC follows the Associated Press Stylebook, which specifies that Dr. should be used only “in first reference as a formal title before the name of an individual who holds a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy degree.” The stylebook further notes that “because the public frequently identified Dr. only with physicians, care should be taken to assure that the individual’s specialty is stated in the first or second references.”

This policy generally worked well at Duke but proved problematic when it came to medical research. Physician researchers at Duke often work side-by-side with Ph.D.’s of comparable skill and training, who may feel slighted by a release that uses Dr. to describe only some members of the team. To avoid this juxtaposition while still conforming to A.P. style, the ONC dropped the use of Dr. altogether, except in a “note to editors” that will not be published.

The Duke News Service also avoids the listing of degrees after a person’s name, since this leads to an “alphabet soup” proliferation that is unwelcome by reporters and has considerable potential for error. It modified this policy only to deal with the specific problem of medical researchers, and only for researchers holding the M.D. and/or Ph.D. degrees. Other designations may be included as appropriate, such as: Rex Prescription, who holds a doctor of pharmacy degree . . . Carol Hathaway, a registered nurse . . . Terry Orr, a doctor of veterinary medicine . . . Jim Leggett, who is a registered occupational therapist.

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The ONC will publicly report deaths among members of the campus community in a timely fashion. These obituaries will generally be short — typically a few paragraphs — and limited to on-campus distribution except in noteworthy situations.

In deciding how to prepare obituaries, the ONC will consider factors such as whether the person was a public figure; whether the death occurred in a public place (especially on campus); privacy concerns; and concerns voiced by surviving family members and members of the university community. Its determination of how widely to disseminate the information will be based upon timeliness, proximity and other standards of newsworthiness.

The campus community is defined here as including students, employees, faculty, emeritus faculty, administrators, retired administrators, trustees, donors, alumni and friends of the university.

This policy does not cover the reporting of homicides, which are more appropriately covered by existing policies on ONC coverage of crime and public health.


Providing accurate and timely information on deaths to the news media, the campus community and the general public is an issue of professional responsibility for the ONC. Failure to provide such notification could damage its credibility and effectiveness, as well as the broader credibility of the university.

ONC obituaries are intended as reports on newsworthy individuals, not as substitutes for extended feature profiles by others. Their main purpose is to inform the campus community and provide necessary details for members of the media to write their own obituaries. Thus, ONC obituaries will tend to be concise, focusing on pertinent biographical details and information about funeral services. If an outside news organization is known to be preparing an obituary, the ONC may limit its role to compiling and distributing statements from appropriate campus individuals, perhaps supplemented with a short obituary for campus audiences at a later date.

The ONC cannot routinely provide lengthy life stories to all potential news outlets. Its distribution of obituaries and related materials will focus on the university community except in cases that it determines to be of wider public interest. In all cases, it will weigh carefully the public’s “need to know” against privacy concerns and the potential harm that coverage might cause the family or campus community.


Once information of death has been confirmed, a basic procedure will be followed:

1. The funeral home (or similar institution) handling the deceased will be contacted. The information provided to the funeral home by the family will be considered the information of record for biographical details, cause of death (required by The Associated Press), the names and hometowns of surviving relatives and funeral arrangements. The funeral home may also be able to provide a photograph of the deceased.

2. Any written or electronic information on the deceased will be collected and reviewed for possible inclusion. Duke Archives maintain biographical information, past newspaper clips, curriculum vitae and other material on many faculty members. The ONC also prepares “biographical backgrounders” on prominent members of the Duke community.

3. A member of the family will be contacted, if possible. Although difficult, this contact provides an invaluable opportunity to gauge the family’s reaction to the death and to possible publication of the news. This person will be offered a courtesy review of the obituary, with the understanding that he/she must respond by a set time or forfeit the opportunity for input.

4. Colleagues of the deceased may also be contacted. In the case of a student, the vice president of student affairs, or his/her representative, will be consulted. Interviews with friends/students may be appropriate, but any questioning should proceed with sensitivity. In select cases, the president or other top administrators may be contacted for comment.

5. The focus of the obituary will be on the accomplishments of the individual rather than the circumstances of the death. Confidential medical information that has not been made public by authorities or freely shared by the family will not be reported. In the case of faculty and students, special attention will be paid to academic honors, publications and results of their scholarship. Particular focus will be paid to events during their time at Duke. The ONC director will have the responsibility for determining the appropriate approach.

6. The ONC will conduct a final review of all obituaries before distribution and reserves the right to make final changes.

7. The ONC director will determine the distribution of obituaries on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with appropriate university officials. Distribution will generally focus on the Duke community except in cases where the individual’s prominence, as well as the rapid availability of biographical information, warrants distribution to broader audiences.

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