Primer on Working with the Media
- The media are no more energetic than most of us
Few reporters are as concerned about your story as you are. A reporter will give your story the minimum effort required to get it done. Corollary: The more you can do for a reporter and the less the reporter has to do, the easier you make his job and the more likely you are to get the message you want across.
- Reporters write for an audience with an assumed 8th-grade education level
Details are lost on reporters. They like things framed in black and white that can be told in simple sentences.
- News coverage is not a reward
Media report news, not causes and viewpoints, no matter how worthy. Stories deserve coverage because they are news, not because they are good. Corollary: The more you make your story sound like news, the more it will be covered.
- Journalism is not history
Reporters are under no obligation to report the truth (whatever that is), but only to report the facts. The more of your facts a reporter has, the more of your story gets told. Corollary: Refer to point #7. Don't give a reporter too much work to do. Be willing to spoon feed.
- Take that call now
Media are always on deadline. You can return a call in under 30 minutes and still miss the story. The reporter always has his eye on putting out a daily product - whether that's TV news or a newspaper. The pressure of immediacy, to get it NOW is always on.
- Everyone is busy
That especially means reporters. Any news story, issues story, human-interest feature you want to share must be researched and accessibly packaged in easy-to-understand bites to make the best use of their time. Add complete preparation to an appealing story, and you'll get more coverage.
- Reputation counts
Reporters, editors and producers are bombarded with information. If they're approached by someone who calls sparingly with always compelling ideas, it goes to the top of their list. That's why it helps to approach media through the university news bureau. Everyone in the office is a former reporter or producer.
- Newspapers aren't peer-reviewed
No, you can't read the story before it's published. A good reporter will have no problem reading back your quotes to check for accuracy. Most reporters won't do this. It's better to monitor a reporter's reactions during an interview. Take your time. Ask questions. Fill in the reporter's knowledge gaps.