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Working with the Press


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Matt Hughes, Bucknell University, ”Working with the Press”

The presentation will give community groups insight on HOW to get your point across in PRINT. What do you want to say during a phone interview? How can you get a photographer to a site with the reporter? How much information is too much? These are all the insider perspectives from a media communications writer that has covered and written dozens of stories on AMD and watershed restoration. Examples of what should be provided to reporters as a handout.

Published in: News & Politics, Technology
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Working with the Press

  1. 1. Approaching newspapers
  2. 2. The Times Leader  Daily newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, covering Luzerne County and parts of Wyoming and surrounding counties. Paid daily circulation about 40,000, Sunday circulation around 60,000.  An area marked by environmental disruption, home to the highest volume acid mine drainage discharge in the state and miles of mine scarred land.  An area built on the Susquehanna and prone to periodic flooding, notably in 1972 and 2011.  On the edge of the Marcellus Shale, has seen growing development of pipeline and associated infrastructure, and accompanying backlash.
  3. 3. Flow of a newsroom Editor Reporter Editor Reporter Sources, elected officials, the courts and police, businesses and nonprofits, community groups, the public
  4. 4. Inside a newsroom  Reporter vs. correspondent  Beat reporter vs. general assignment  Traditional beats: courts, police/breaking news, city government, county government, education  Shrinking newsrooms result in many reporters playing a hybrid role. Most aren't going to have a dedicated environmental reporter, but someone may play that role regularly as needed, sub specialties and designation of ability can arise organically from the needs of the newsroom
  5. 5. Inside a newsroom  Reporters are busy, it isn't atypical for a reporter to research and write 2 to three stories a day while conferring with editors and photographers and preparing for upcoming stories, perhaps working on a column or playing a role in maintaining the paper's web presence  Make their job as easy as possible, be flexible, and understand their needs
  6. 6. News scheduling  Most stories have a quick turnaround  Other stories are written ahead of time and may be held as more pressing news arises  Realize your story, unless of very strong impact, is likely to fall into this second group  Newsrooms operate on a somewhat regular M-F schedule and run on a shoestring staff at night and on weekends, filling in the gaps with correspondents  They are always looking for evergreens for the weekends
  7. 7. News cycles  Busiest times:  Late April and May and in October and November  Fridays in the fall and the end of the sports seasons (district championships etc.) may make photographers harder to get  Slow periods:  Around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving (week of) and end of the year Newsrooms will start preparing for these times as soon as the election is over  Other public holidays
  8. 8. Finding the right person to call/email  Most newsrooms have a general news tip email, send releases there, not to community news  You may also want to call and/or email someone directly (consider the importance)  May not be a bad idea just to call and introduce yourself to the reporter who may cover the story, but you want to identify that person first  When you call the newsroom, find the person you want to talk to before you start talking
  9. 9. Who is the right person?  City editor (news editor)  Reporter who usually handles that beat  Not sure? look for a general newsroom number and ask, a reporter should answer and help
  10. 10. When to call  Don't tell me about what you've done after you've done it  Ongoing research can be just as interesting if not more so than the findings of studies,  Reporters want to tell interesting stories  A week to two weeks out is usually enough notice and close enough that you shouldn't slip through the cracks, follow up if you don't hear back or as the day approaches  Be as flexible as possible about times
  11. 11. Making contact  Make notes ahead of time about what you want to communicate, namely, why the reporter and his/her readers should care  Have all your facts straight and in front of you when you call  Start by asking if it’s a good time to talk (reporters are busy!). If it’s not, ask when a good time for YOU to call back might be  You want to get to the point quickly, but don’t railroad people, if you’re speaking to a person you’ve never met, introduce yourself and your organization briefly, then get to the point
  12. 12. Dilemma of the press conference  A way of garnering media attention, and can be helpful to reporters in that they get everyone in a room and everything said in a short interval  A press conference does not a story make  If the timing is wrong or it's too far away (justifying losing a photographer and a reporter for a whole day) media organizations can ignore you  Reaching out to media organizations individually requires more time and flexibility but may yield longer, better quality stories receiving better play than press conferences and "new study released" stories  Press conferences give newspapers something to photograph, but they make boring photographs
  13. 13. Think visually
  14. 14. The 2 most common photos in newspapers:
  15. 15. Nobody Cares!
  16. 16. You can do better!
  17. 17. Writing a good press release  Give me the information I need to know in an easy to find place  If you're hosting an event, put the date, time, detailed location and your name and contact information at the top in a location I can easily find, do not leave out vital information or make me hunt for it  Tell me at the top a good concise summary of what is happening and why I (readers) should care  Identify what is most relevant to the paper's readership
  18. 18. What do readers most need to know? Does this highlight some potential threat to their health? How does the health of the watershed affect their lives? What will people find interesting about this? What is unique about it? Are animals involved? Are you getting the community involved or trying to do so? Are there opportunities for a photographer (the paper's) to take great photos?
  19. 19. Body of the press release  Give me a short (5-7 sentence) description of what you would like to tell about and why readers should care  Stick to the facts  End with a very short summary of who your organization is, where you are and what you do  Then, shut up  Keep it to one page  Attaching a document to an email is fine, just make sure the email provides core information about what is happening and why you are contacting us  Make the subject line descriptive and indicate that it is a news release
  20. 20. Media day  Give the reporter your cell phone number and clear directions  Realize you can’t control the story the reporter will write, but you can make sure s/he gets it right by using clear simple terms and speaking slowly  Remember your audience  If possible, give the reporter a card with your name and any material you may have that concisely summarizes who you are and what you do  If you prefer, type up a fast facts sheet about your organization and whatever it is you may be showing the reporter that day  Be available for follow up later in the day  Use this process as an opportunity to educate the reporter about your organization and to develop a relationship as much as possible
  21. 21. Following up  If you were at least satisfied that the story was accurate and captured you relatively well, say thank you  If we made a factual error, tell us (try not to nitpick)  Keep in touch (not just when you need something)  Building a relationship can help you get a picture of what the reporter needs and that reporter may turn to you when they need something  A casual conversation about something your organization is working on, even if you’re not looking for a story right away, might spark a reporter’s interest