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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