News is about disseminating information that is to everyone. So follow the golden rule: Only contact a reporter if there is something concrete and news worthy to convey. Most reporters, work on tight deadlines and wasting their time is unjust.
Just as you learn how to present news, give interviews, or prepare press releases, it is essential to know when. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
Never contact a reporter if:
• What you want reported is mere hearsay or you don’t have concrete facts. Never be instrumental in spreading rumours. Reporting is serious business and spreading gossip is not its mainstay.
• The media is caught up in a media blitz—political turmoil, war, a deluge, natural calamities, and so on. When there is breaking news in progress, everyday stories become unimportant and irrelevant. So, pause a moment and desist.
• You have a “media release” but aren’t sure when all the plans will fall into place. Never take the last step unless you have accurate, concise, and clear information.
• You don’t have adequate time for an in depth interview. Give your self enough time to prepare and enough time for the reporter to interview you—to be complete and rounded, any interview allow for the facts to be grasped and the picture drawn clearly.
• The news you have is not ethical but sensational news. Remember, you must pay to a person’s right to privacy, confidentiality, and protection from harm and retribution. This is especially true where children are concerned.
• The laws of a nation or intellectual property rights protect the news you want published.
• The relevance of the story is limited to a small circle or community.
• The story is of a personal nature that isn’t important to the public at large.
• The “facts” of your story can’t be proven — a story you just have a gist of is not newsworthy.
• Never submit inappropriate material to the media /reporters--you will develop a negative reputation and your material will be thrown away as soon as a reporter receives it. You need to establish yourself as a person that can be trusted to give accurate, concise, and newsworthy stories.
• Your thoughts aren’t sorted out --- the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the story you wish to report is unknown or hazy.
• Your media release isn’t final—if you send one on Monday and another with changes/corrections on Tuesday, your credibility will be shot.
• The long term/short term publicity goals aren’t in place.
• Press materials aren’t fully developed. The press release, media kit, and other promotional materials must all be finalized and ready for distribution well before a reporter is contacted.
• You are uncomfortable talking about or discussing a particular topic---it’s better to say nothing than say something you’ll regret later. Once you’ve spoken to the media/reporter, it will be hard to retract what you have said.
• You don’t want to be “quoted.” Unless you have a really good tip, or information, reporters don’t like to go off the record.
• You’re not familiar with the background of a “story” or the sequence of events—personal opinions are not news.
• The story you want told doesn’t have an “angle”; it’s not newsy; has no human interest aspect –most people won’t be able to relate to the story; if it’s not relevant to current happenings; it does little to add depth/impact to a popular story the media is focussing on.
Rethink—is my story NEW, it is concise and clear, short, sharp, and simple, is it accurate—will it stand scrutiny? If you can answer “yes” to most of these questions then go right ahead and contact a reporter.