Types of Media
There are several types of media and each is different in its own way. They each need different things from stories (and you).
Daily newspapers present news stories written by reporters, who are supervised by editors. Editors assign some stories, but most are reporters’ ideas. After reporters write stories, editors decide where and when the stories will appear in the newspaper. Sometimes, stories may not be printed until days or weeks after they’re written, but usually there is a pretty quick turn around.
Advantages of Dailies:
- By definition, daily newspapers publish every day and subsequently need a lot of stories to fill the pages.
- If they like the story, they might take an in-depth look at it.
- They’re best equipped to handle complex issues that require research and investigation.
- They have more space, more money and more resources to free a reporter for days, even weeks, to tackle an issue.
- They have more variety than any other medium.
Strategies for Dailies:
- Find the right department to make your pitch. Most daily newspapers have departments for news, sports, arts and entertainment, editorials, business, and recreation and lifestyle.
- Keep in mind that dailies are always looking for good photos. Does your story have a strong visual element? Let the reporter know or put that in the news release.
- Your sales job should be directed to one reporter at a time. If you draw two people at the same newspaper into the same story, you risk antagonizing both.
Weekly Newspapers and Community Publications
Most weekly and community newspapers or publications tailor to specific groups:small towns, counties.
Advantages of Weeklies
- They have specific audiences perhaps more directly targeted to the people you’re trying to reach (such as a service region).
- They’ll often give an issue more attention if it affects their specific readership.
- Readers may identify more closely with their community newspaper than with the mass media.
Strategies for Weeklies
- Get to know each weekly newspaper’s audience. Read those newspapers,available in public libraries.
- Consider tailoring your news release to that newspaper’s specific readership.
- One easy way: Send several newspapers the same basic release about an event but for each, insert a quote from a different volunteer who happens to live in that newspaper’s circulation area.
- Work with the newspaper’s publication date and deadlines, which vary.
- As a rule, weekly staffs are swamped two to four days before publication.
- To some extent, weeklies compete with dailies and other mass media. Try sending out news releases so that the weeklies have a chance to print the story on the same day as the dailies and television.
- Weekly and community newspapers have small, generally non-specialized staff and lack extensive libraries and big budgets. Plan your pitch with those characteristics in mind.
- It helps to supply photos or art.
Magazines and other publications
Magazines and other publications are a way to read a very specific audience with a story. These publications are typically organized around an interest group such as business, healthcare, or higher education.
Advantages of Magazines
- The stories tend to me more feature-like and longer than in newspapers.
- The shelf life is longer for magazines as they are typically printed only weekly or monthly.
- With their very specific audiences, it is easier to get your message to that group
Strategies for Magazines
- Contact the publication’s editor with your story idea. Be sure to highlight why it is of interest to their readership
- Many of these sorts of publications have a limited number of full-time staff and rely on freelance writers to write stories
- The freelancer doing the story may have no background in the topic area. Be sure to take the time to explain things thoroughly
- These publications have editorial calendars that are set months, even years ahead of time. Pitch your stories around the theme of each issue.
- These publications often goes to press more than a month before its scheduled release date. The April issue may be finished as early as mid-February. Keep this in mind when timing your pitch.
- Offer to supply the publication with supporting graphics or photos-many don’t have the staff needed to take their own, but still want them
Television news usually tells fewer stories in fewer words — typically 10 to 15stories per newscast, including sports stories. Even complex issues often must be compressed to 90 seconds or less of explanation .Generally, an assignment editor decides which stories reporters will cover,although reporters are expected to bring story ideas to the table. Then a reporter/photographer team covers the story. Finally, a producer decides which stories to include in newscasts, how long they should be and in what order they appear.
Advantages of TV
- You reach a broad audience — in their living rooms.
- Your story makes a visual impact that can be strong and often lingers in people’s minds.
- Information is current and timely.
Strategies for TV
- Immediacy is key. If your event or group is doing something that relates to today’s news, call the assignment desk or email and pitch your “local” angle immediately. If it can’t be covered in time for the evening news, it might work for the late-night news or early-morning news.
- Many stories start as news releases. Send releases to the assignment editor several days in advance. You may also send one to a particular reporter with whom you have dealt in the past.
- It is a good idea to follow up with a telephone call to the assignment editor the day of the event.
- Think good pictures and sound. Visual interest and movement are everything on TV — often as important as the news itself. Public demonstrations and car wrecks are likely to get more attention than a room of “talking heads,” though news will get covered if the station feels it is newsworthy.
- Have a good spokesperson in mind – someone who can make a point quickly and clearly.
- Find a compelling setting. If you’re talking some new equipment, lure the cameras to it being used.
- Don’t assume the news team knows the subject. Brief the team about what’s going to be discussed. If practical, give the reporter written background.
- Timing can affect your chances of being covered. Events scheduled after 9 a.m. or in the early afternoon give stations the most time to edit for evening shows .Sometimes you stand a better chance on Mondays or weekends, when TV crews are hungry for local news.
Don’t underestimate radio. Radio stations can be great for reaching a wide audience. Their news departments usually cover news with the smallest staffs, in the shortest time for each story, and with the most frequent deadlines.
Advantages of Radio
- You reach a broad audience.
- There’s an opportunity to reach more specific audiences with stations that have a targeted audience.
Strategies for Radio:
- Know the stations. Stations with frequent local newscasts have time and staff to cover your story. Smaller stations with mostly music formats may not.
- Send news releases to the news director or assignment editor. Remind the news director a day or two before the event
- When you call, be prepared to be interviewed on the spot.
- Think good sound. Radio reporters often look for “hot tape” — interesting sounds that help tell the story. For example, the sound of crushing glass makes a story about recycling more interesting than simply talking about it. Think of sounds that radio reporters could record in the field that might help create a mental image for listeners.
- Be accommodating. Offer to drop by the station for an interview or to be called up at a later time.
- Timing is crucial. “Morning drive” is the most important time of the day for radio news. Some stations begin early, sometimes between 4 – 6 a.m. “Afternoon drive” (4 – 7 p.m.) is the other big time. Watch the clock. Avoid calling around the top of the hour or the half-hour when news people are most likely on the air and not available to speak with you.
- Talk shows are a good way to reach people. Each station organizes them differently. Generally, you need to contact the producer of the show, not the host.