Media Guide magazine
So, you think you’ve got a story the media will sit up and take notice of? You dash off a news release to a few folks and cross your fingers. And then….nothing happens. No phone calls. No interest. You’re left wondering “What did I do wrong?” Why isn’t anyone interested in my story? After all, the information is important to you and you think everyone should know about it.
Knowing how the media works and how to present a story idea that will get their attention is essential to getting your story in the media. It’s part form and part function. So what’s on the radar of the media in Victoria these days? I asked a few seasoned media professionals in Victoria for their views on what makes a story newsworthy.
The truth is the media get dozens if not hundreds of news releases every day; more than they can use, so it’s important to understand how the media works and how to make their job easier. Crafting a news release that’s effective and catches the eye of the media isn’t rocket science but hundreds of them end up in recycling bins so it’s important to adhere to the dos and don’ts of good news release writing and distribution.
Aside from how the information is presented (the form), what makes a story newsworthy? Stories have to pass the ultimate test every media outlet asks themselves - the “why should we care?” test (the function).
Just as it’s crucial to the success of any business to understand what your customers want, it’s just as important to know what the media is looking for when you have a story to tell. “Knowledge of how the media works is power,” according to veteran journalist Alan Perry in a recent media workshop.
At the Business Examiner, editor Lyle Jenish recommends putting a personal spin on business stories, the story behind the story. “Give the people (in your story) some colour,” he says. Of course, Jenish is always looking for the unique angle. He wants to get inside the story and suggests that the more information the better when sending him a business story.
Darron Kloster, business editor at the Times Colonist looks for how the story is relevant to the average consumer. “We’re all consumers first,” says Kloster “and our mandate is to appeal to as many consumers as possible.” He sights the example of the recent trucker’s dispute that undeniably impacts everyone on Vancouver Island.
So what if your story isn’t exactly breaking news that affects the masses?
“Hook your story to a current event or to something that’s happening globally,” says Kloster. That way, your local story benefits from the larger perspective. A good example is the number of local stories that spun out of the tsunami story.
For Richard Konwich, assignment editor at CH News it’s also the extent of the story’s appeal. “It has to have wide appeal,” he says. And by that, it should have appeal across communities, ages, men and women.
So what is the media interested in these days? At the new VI, Jennifer Beaumont host of New Day says her show focuses on local business news and is “part entertainment and part information”.
“Lifestyles of the rich and famous, and new trends” says Konwich. For Kloster it’s often the “water cooler” effect. What are people talking about? What’s important to people in the community?
What’s the biggest misconception small business has about the media? According to Kloster,” it’s that we don’t care” if an item doesn’t make it in the paper. His advice? “Be persistent and try to come at it from another angle.”
In print, there’s more room for lengthy explanation. Television, of course relies heavily on good pictures. So it’s important to provide quality images that best illustrate your story. Radio loves sound bites and lends itself to short, focused stories that can be delivered in a few concise words.
What percentage of stories never make it to air? “Most” he says. “Most stories simply aren’t interesting or unique.”