The care and feeding of reporters

Lively, Banchero, Toppo

Always remember these things when working with reporters.

If a reporter doesn’t answer your email, follow up by phone.
If a reporter doesn’t answer your email, do not follow up by phone.

When you email a reporter, always CC: the reporter’s editor.
When you email a reporter, do not CC: the reporter’s editor.

Embargoed press releases help reporters do their job.
Embargoed press releases frustrate and offend reporters.

Reporters have favorite topics that they track.
Reporters do not have favorite topics; they are generalists.

If you leave a message, the reporter will get back to you.
If you leave a message, the reporter will not get back to you.

That’s according to a panel of three education reporters at an afternoon EWA session today.

Seriously, the panel did agree on a few things.

There is no more ‘news cycle.’ Everything is Always On.

There is no longer “A Story”: it will be repackaged and used in different versions in different media.

Today’s panel included Kit Lively (Dallas Morning News), Stephanie Banchero (Chicago Tribune), and Greg Toppo (USA Today). They offered the following tips:

If you’re a PR person, education communicator, or public information officer who wants to see your story featured in a newspaper, you should do your homework first. Keep in mind that reporters are overwhelmed with information.

Everyone wants reporters to tell their story.

Reporters have long lists of stories they already want to do.

Many education reporters are the youngest and least experienced in the newsroom so sometimes you’ll be dealing with someone who knows little about education.

Know the reporter’s audience and context. A story pitch that works for a reporter in City A very well may not work for a reporter in City B. Example: If you’re pitching a story about vouchers, make sure the reporter’s state indeed uses vouchers.

Do not argue with reporters if they say they can’t use your idea.

Besides head shots, reporters will not use photos you send, and will not use videos you send.

Reporters do read blogs and news feeds in addition to major national dailies (the online version)

Newsroom email systems cannot handle large video files or PDF files. Send the reporter a link instead.

When reporters use your web site, they want navigability, a search function, and fact sheets. If material is really important, don’t make them click through 90 pages.

When searching for experts, reporters do not use PR News Wire. They use their own network of resources.

Reporters do not have time to attend press conferences. Offer a conference call or webcast instead.

Reporters appreciate having your experts’ cell phone numbers.

Reporters do not use “new media press releases” and don’t know what they are.

Do not expect a reporter to write a feature about your product because you pitch it as “educational.”

Do not pitch your school safety product by pegging it to a recent school shooting or a natural disaster.

If a reporter is not a columnist, do not say “I love your column.”

Reporters do not need any more experts on Testing.

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2 Responses to The care and feeding of reporters

  1. Kim says:

    Really enjoyed and appreciated this recap, both as a former education writer and now a higher ed PR director. Thanks for posting; definitely sharing.

    • paul says:

      Hi Kim. Thanks for the comment. It will be interesting to see how many education reporters transition into PR and other kinds of communication positions given the current state of the industry. Feel free to suggest future blog post ideas.

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