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The business of making the news

Media: Signal Executive Editor Jason Schaff speaks to community about how to get a story told

Posted: August 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.

News moves very fast, and quick decisions are made on what to do with an abundance of information flooding media outlets daily.

With that knowledge in mind, Jason Schaff, executive editor of The Signal, presented “How to Get Your Story Told” to a group of 70 people at TPC Valencia at a luncheon Tuesday.

Schaff  and Morris Thomas, interim publisher at The Signal, welcomed the group by telling attendees how the presentation should help people access all media outlets in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Rise above the pack
With the rapid rise in use of social media and Internet blogs over the past few years, there is so much information available that a story can get lost if people don’t know how to access the media for the benefit of their organization, business or nonprofit.

All communication sources provide a value, but traditional media outlets offer a certain credibility and cache for an organization when a news organization covers its news story.

Pointing to the recent “Carmageddon” stories that saturated the print and broadcast media last month, Schaff said the intense publicity and media coverage of the planned closure of the 405 freeway probably prevented the closure from becoming a crisis in the Los Angeles area.

News must interest
Not all stories have the same appeal, and some appeal to different audiences. As a result, media outlets welcome input from the local community.

But how does one know if the story or information they have will make it to print or broadcast?

The story or news tip must be interesting.

“It must be news that relates to the community as a whole, help a group of people with their daily lives or business, and inform people of something they don’t know about,” Schaff said.

Traditional media
The publisher of a print publication or general manager of a broadcast outlet is usually the top person at a media organization. The person might be the owner or might report to a higher executive in a larger corporation.

People in these roles generally don’t get involved in day-to-day functions of the editorial department, and remain focused on the financial and advertising sides of the business, Schaff said.

Accessing the media
If someone has breaking, or “hard” news, such as a car crash, fire or robbery, those news leads should be called into a news room.

For all other news stories, a press release is the best way to present one’s story for consideration. Begin with the key element that makes the case why this story will be of interest.

“Be specific,” Schaff said. “Make the lead paragraph clear so newsrooms will pay attention and know why they should cover the story.”

Then provide the basic facts about the event, issue or business you want the media to cover. Like any good journalism story, the press release needs to include the “who, what, when, where, why and how” — the basic elements of any story.

Subject’s role
Reporters are always working against deadline, so be patient if they don’t call you back immediately, but they should always call you back, Schaff said.

“Like any other business, the news business is based on relationships, so stay in touch with reporters and develop relationships,” he said.

Becoming a reliable source provides reporters with access to credible people who can be called upon for any number of stories that may develop.

To get coverage, and be covered, make the process as easy as possible for news gathering organizations. Be accessible, provide information and be timely. These practices will help you get your story told.

“If we seem rushed,” Schaff said, “it’s because we are. But we really want your information.”


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