There are many stories out there. Some are so important that every media outlet in your area, region or country will want to cover them. Other stories are of more limited interest to particular media groups. Identifying which stories will be attractive to which media will save you a great deal of time when it comes to communicating your idea. It can also significantly aid you in the development of your story pitch and allow you to be much more convincing when you are on the phone speaking with a journalist or producer.
Here are some simple things to consider when you are deciding what, and for whom, is newsworthy.
TV producers want stories that are visual. Cute kids performing a play, a car crash, or the infamous Vancouver riot make for very good TV (just ask CTV’s Rob Brown). If a picture says a thousand words, a minute and thirty seconds video clip can say the same thing as a cover story in The Atlantic. When you are considering your story, think about what people will see. If there are compelling visuals, the story doesn’t always need to be impactful. Since TV’s deadlines are usually tight, revolving around an evening news segment, producers and editors generally need to be in the studio with the day’s footage by 4ish at the latest. So, if you have an event and you want TV cameras there, try not to schedule it in the afternoon (this goes for radio and print as well).
There are two types of radio. The talk shows are great for longer more in-depth conversations. Producers generally want something that is topical and someone who is articulate, punchy and willing to talk candidly about interesting stuff. Consider the host of the show to whom you are pitching and make sure you call them a week or two before the segment. If you have a hot guest to offer up, this might not be necessary, but in many cases, some lead time will be helpful for everyone.
The other type of radio journalist to consider are newsdesk reporters. These radio reporters are frequently the first on the scene and because of the very short format of the medium (most news radio stories are only a few sentences sandwiching a quote from someone), they can turn around their news very quickly. At the school board, we frequently hear from the radio stations before anyone else in times of crisis. Keep in mind that good radio reporters are always thinking of background audio. CBC’s radio reporters do a terrific job of integrating this into their stories. If you have some good background sound that helps tell the story (like a choir at a school concert or the sound of a raging river near an environmental event) consider mentioning that to the reporter.
These folks are best if you have an in-depth story that requires a significant amount of explanation. Stories about money, trends, big chunks of complex data, a big investigation, or that involve multiple sources/characters print can be a good medium to pursue. If you have an argumentative position, you could also consider a commentary or op-ed piece.
Because there tends to be more of them out there, print journalists frequently have a little more leniency (especially beat reporters) than the daily grind that TV and radio reporters are hampered with. This means that if the story warrants it, print journalists can often spend more time researching and writing their piece. Once you get really up there, feature stories and magazines pieces will often take months to pursue.
These observations and helpful recommendations around how various media types differ, ideally, will provide you with an in-depth understanding of how to communicate your story to the right audience at the right time so that it engages the public in the right way.