I know the life of a TV news reporter very well. I walked the walk for ten years, plus an additional ten years behind the scenes. I continue to work in the business as a freelance reporter and producer for several major TV networks so I have a pretty decent level of expertise in media relations matters. While it almost never comes up directly in my media training classes, it probably should be near the top of the list. That is, how to earn brownie points with a news reporter? Is it possible to get fair coverage of an issue by simply being nice and helpful? You bet it is.
Here are some quick tips:
-As mentioned above, be nice. Be helpful. Reporters are constantly stressed out. They are on deadline every single day. Anything you can do to simply their information process will be appreciated. Providing them quick and easy access to an interview is very helpful. Doing so with a pleasant and friendly demeanor is the cherry on top.
–Do not overwhelm them. The reporter’s mission is to attempt to get both sides of an issue and deliver the story on deadline. During one day with one assignment, I cannot accurately count in my head how many people I might talk to on the phone, via email and text, social media and in the newsroom. It’s a big number so do not overwhelm them. If you have a fact sheet, great. But make sure it’s one page. Anything more than that is a waste of your time and theirs. Include relevant links, contact info, and anything else which might be helpful. But again, do not overwhelm them. Keep it simple.
–Be accessible. There is nothing more frustrating to a reporter on deadline than getting voice mail or not getting a response to an email or text. While not all stories are positive (most are not), ignoring a reporter call or being less than accessible will make matters worse. Spokespersons, agency reps, PIO’s, and news makers who ignored my calls or requests for information were called out on the air. Those who are receptive and accessible get better treatment. It’s a fact. Want to earn extra credit? Provide quick and easy access to interviews which will help personalize their stories. Do that and I will give you a gold star.
–DO NOT attempt to dictate their coverage. Ever. Even a rookie reporter straight out of journalism school will pick up on your attempts and will fight you every step of the way. In fact, you are now more likely to be treated unfairly. Be accessible, be helpful, provide information. But if you attempt to dictate story coverage you are dead in the water.