a reporter’s job (and yours)

When pitching a story idea, it’s important to understand the life of a reporter.  Here’s the Coles notes version.

  • High pressure job.MPj04017870000[1]
  • Professional questioner.
  • Generalists who know a lot about a little, (quick studies).
  • Well educated – college, university or both.
  • Constant deadlines and juggling multiple stories.
  • Demanding editors who assign and reassign stories and who need to be sold on story ideas.
  • Short-staffed newsrooms and tight budgets.
  • Unpredictable and long hours.
  • Competition:
    ~ With other media.
    ~ Within the newsroom – get the top story, best assignments, awards, promotions.
  • Needs a steady supply of story ideas and a network of reliable contacts.

What reporters really want is usually pretty simple. They want their calls returned, a quote for their story, and they want to do their job and go home. You can make it hard for them – or easy – the result is vastly different…

5 ways to make it as easy as possible for a reporter to tell your story…

  1. The number one request from reporters is RETURN PHONE CALLS. Most reporters are working to a daily deadline. 
  2. When you pitch a story to the media, be accessible once the story’s been pitched. Check phone messages, stay in touch and work to the reporter’s deadline. 
  3. Be quotable. Talk in SOUNDBITES. Don’t talk in jargon or industry-speak. Tell a story rather than recite facts and stats. 
  4. Simplify the story for the reporter. Give executive summary highlights. Don’t go into great detail unless asked.
  5. Offer to e-mail or fax background information, reports, weblinks to help the reporter tell your story.

5 ways to ensure your story never sees the light of day…

  1. DON’T ASK TO REVIEW THE STORY before it’s printed or goes to air. Trust the reporter to get the story right. The only person who reviews a reporter’s story is an editor (and he/she doesn’t like it much).
  2. Don’t talk for 30 minutes and then tell the reporter that you don’t want to be quoted. Everything you said before, during and after the interview was on the record and can be used by the reporter. Never say anything you wouldn’t want to see attributed to you.
  3. Don’t ask the reporter for a copy of the story after it’s printed or has gone to air –  a PR consultant or service can do that for you.
  4. Don’t tell reporters that your company advertises with their newspaper, magazine, TV or radio station. Reporters don’t care and some might think you’re trying to blackmail them. Editorial judgment is not influenced by advertising.
  5. Don’t tell the reporter “here’s the real story you need to report.” This would be like a reporter telling you how to do your job or run your company. Your job is to give the reporter the people and information they need to do their jobs. It’s then up to the reporter to use their news judgment and tell the story and you have to trust them to do just that.
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