What Does a Reporter Want?
Good public relations is predicated on the understanding that a
reporter is a human being, with needs, desires, and above all, a
job to do. By understanding the limits that journalists schedules
and formats impose upon them, we can significantly increase the
chances that coverage of our issues will be balanced and complete,
and of developing rewarding relationships with the journalists we
come in contact with.
In order to gain a better understanding of the forces that shape
a reporters reaction to us, and how best to communicate with
them, HotLink took a few moments to interview
Elisa Kukla, a Toronto area freelancer whose beat covers both local
and national news, as well as cultural events.
The Sources HotLink: What constitutes an interview
that will gain good coverage?
Elisa Kukla: Someone who speaks clearly and to the point
and has a large knowledge base, but is able to communicate it in
lay terms. Someone who has a unique angle on their story, rather
than "just the facts." Human interest is always important.
HL: What do interviewees and sources do that inhibit your
ability to cover their issue?
EK: Using a lot of jargon, making it difficult to reach them,
being unwilling to provide follow-up information, taking the "party-line"
on an issue, can all cause a story to be cut. An interviewee who
answers a reporters questions with "yes", "no"
and "maybe" is unlikely to find themselves on the front
HL: People dealing with the media often have the perception
that the journalist is trying to "trip them up". How would
you respond to this?
EK: All Im looking for is the most interesting and
informative angle. That means that if Im dealing with a
politician who doesnt want to be as honest and open as possible,
I am definitely trying to get the truth. But overall, Im looking
for an interesting angle, not a scandalous one. I find people often
trip themselves up by saying things without thinking through the
full implications of their statements, especially taken out of context.
Not answering questions directly also makes a source look bad, without
any effort on the journalists part. However any reputable
journalist should be willing to read your quotes back to you on
demand. If they are unwilling to do so, speak to their editor. That
way you can avoid misquotations.
HL: What is the most important thing about the reporters
job that you would like to communicate to the people and organizations
EK: A journalist is always on a deadline. If you want to
communicate your issue most effectively, send fax or E-mail background.
Take the fax or E-mail of the reporter interviewing you and send
along any additional information you may have forgotten - within
the hour. If you put off getting back to a journalist for a day
your story may very well be cut or shelved.
This article originally appeared in The
Sources HotLink, published by Sources
and available online at www.hotlink.ca.
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