Pitching Story Ideas to the Media: Who’s Who in Your Local Newspaper’s Newsroom (Part 1)

When pitch­ing story ideas to your local paper, you want to make sure your pitch lands into the right hands. The last thing you want to do is the send your idea to the wrong per­son, who may “round file” it, instead of pass­ing it along to the appro­pri­ate col­league. If you have a story that’s time-sensitive in nature, you espe­cially want to see that the right per­son gets it ASAP.

Here’s the low-down on the more com­mon writ­ing and report­ing roles at a daily newspaper:

Journalists/reporters: These indi­vid­u­als are the news writ­ers. They do the research, con­duct the inter­views and write the sto­ries that you read. A reporter’s job is to pro­vide the facts and rep­re­sent both sides of a story with­out any bias. They write from the third per­son per­spec­tive, so you will rarely see the words you, me, I or us in a story writ­ten by a journalist.

In larger cities, reporters often have “beats” or are given reg­u­lar assign­ments to cover. This means, they’re cover local sto­ries by topic, like city hall/government, neigh­bor­hood or crime watch, busi­ness, schools, sports, arts, lifestyle, etc.

At mid-to-large-sized dailies, the news­room could be divided into depart­ments. Think of the sec­tions that come with your news­pa­per – national news, local news, sports, busi­ness, lifestyle, travel, among oth­ers. Again, you will have reporters who spe­cial­ize in many of these top­ics and have peo­ple who man­age these roles within these departments.

Colum­nists: This type of jour­nal­ist writes on a recur­ring basis on a spe­cific topic, often pro­vid­ing spe­cial com­men­tary or their own opin­ions. So you will see the use first (I, me) and sec­ond (You) per­son in their columns, or the plural use of we and us. You can usu­ally spot a colum­nist in a news­pa­per, as their work is accom­pa­nied by their photo and “by line” (who the col­umn is writ­ten by).

Top­ics cov­ered by a colum­nist run the gamut. You can have a colum­nist who spe­cial­izes in advice, careers, busi­ness, tech­nol­ogy, pol­i­tics, weather, sports, among oth­ers. Colum­nists can be local, national or syndicated.

Local colum­nists write about local top­ics and their respec­tive columns appear only in that one publication.

National columnists are employed by large daily papers – such as USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Jour­nal, The Boston Globe, et al. – and write columns that can be sold to and repub­lished in other papers across the country.

Syn­di­cated colum­nists appear in mul­ti­ple news­pa­pers, but these writ­ers sell their work syn­di­ca­tion ser­vices which, in turn, dis­trib­ute the col­umn through­out the news­pa­per world.

Blog­gers: You can also read your local paper online, so blogs are a reg­u­lar fea­ture on the paper’s web­site. The blog­ging plat­form gives news­pa­per indus­try imme­di­acy, which is some­thing all news out­lets (both broad­cast and print) strive to pro­vide when report­ing the news. The goal is to pro­vide the newest, fresh­est, most unique angle to any story at any given time. Since news­pa­pers do not have the lux­ury of inter­rupt­ing our favorite tele­vi­sion pro­grams or songs play­ing on the radio with break­ing news or run­ning mul­ti­ple news­casts in one day, the blog, as well as its web­site, allow these news pub­li­ca­tions to report up-to-the-minute coverage.

The blog can be writ­ten by reporters or colum­nists or by some­one hired specif­i­cally to write blog posts. Blogs allow reporters or colum­nists to share a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse at how their story came together. Since news­pa­pers have lim­ited space, news sto­ries are writ­ten to fit. So the blog plat­form allows the story to be expanded, so the writer can pro­vide fur­ther analy­sis on the topic.

Finally, many peo­ple who do not buy a printed copy of the paper may opt for an on-line sub­scrip­tion. The blog offers on-line sub­scribers addi­tional con­tent, while extend­ing the social out­reach of the publication.

Photographers/photo jour­nal­ists: The use of pho­tog­ra­phy in news­pa­pers is also a jour­nal­is­tic role. Photo jour­nal­ists cover all types of news: acci­dents, spe­cial events, break­ing news, weather, sports, etc.

Pho­to­graph can be used as a self-contained story – with a cut line appear­ing beneath it. They also can accom­pany an arti­cle to pro­vide a visual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the story being told and help­ing to draw a con­nec­tion between the reader and the report.

Just like report­ing the news, the images should be timely to work in cadence with the arti­cle it accom­pa­nies. And the image should be impar­tial, pro­vid­ing the reader with a fair and accu­rate account of the event.

In Part 2 of Pitch­ing Story Ideas to the Media, we’ll look at news­room man­age­ment at a local newspaper.

© 2013 Stephanie Faiella, http://www.avantimarcom.com

Stephanie Faiella is a vir­tual mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant and founder of Avanti Marketing+Communications. Stephanie offers a free audio report on “15 Mar­ket­ing Cam­paign Strate­gies Designed to Build and Grow Your Busi­ness” – along with two free bonuses – wh

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