Media 101

Using the media to publicize your message allows you to gain access to hundreds or even thousands of people. As an advocate, using the media requires background research and a carefully thought out strategy.

As an advocate, you can use the media to:

  • Influence or change public opinion
  • Make a private issue public and put pressure on the government

In advocacy, going to the media should not be the first step.

What Makes News?

Before contacting the media, consider whether your 'pitch' will be considered 'news':

  1. A news hook – In order to get the media’s attention, the story must be newsworthy and have a ‘hook.’ A news hook is a thought, idea or situation upon which a journalist ‘hangs’ his or her story. It is also the element of change that makes the story interesting to the consumer. Examples that apply to individual advocacy are community or social impact; saving lives; 'first, only or largest'
     
  2. Story components – Character + Problem + Movement
    • Character (Who are you? What experience have you had that adds to the story?)
    • Problem (What is wrong with the current situation? What need or opportunity can you present?)
    • Movement or solution (What should happen next?)
       
  3. Structure – In a news story, the most important or interesting element must be at the beginning, not the end. Think of a news story as an inverted triangle. The headline must capture your attention despite all the other stories on the page. You should be able to summarize your story into one paragraph that includes who, what, when, where, why and how.

Understanding the Media

The structural organization of media outlets differs depending on the size of the staff of the outlet and their mandate. In smaller newsrooms, one person may complete both the tasks of deciding the news content and writing the stories. In larger media centres, a fuller staff will have more specific responsibilities and cover specific topic areas, or “beats”.

Below are generalized descriptions for titles you may come across that deal specifically with print media:

  • Editor-in-chief – individual in charge of all aspects of reporting the news. He or she usually oversees newsroom operations and editorial schedules
  • Senior editor or editor – manager of a section, like the Health and Business sections of your local newspaper
  • Assignment editor – individual who has control over the flow of all information and assigns stories to reporters. The assignment editor is likely your key contact
  • Reporter – individual that writes on a specific topic and / or specializes in a certain area (i.e. health issues, environmental issues, political issues, etc.). It is important to identify reporters who write on the issues related to your cause, and develop a relationship

In broadcasting, some titles stay the same, while others change. Below are generalized descriptions for individuals who work in broadcast media:

  • Executive producer - like an editor-in-chief, is the individual in charge of all aspects of reporting the news
  • Assignment editor – individual who has control over the flow of all information and assigns stories to producers or reporters. The assignment editor is likely your key contact
  • Producer – individual who coordinates and controls all aspects of the segment production, including identifying the story idea, booking the interviews and sourcing background information. A producer and reporter work together to develop the report or segment
  • Reporter – individual who conducts interviews and reports on a topic. Reporters are often specialized in certain areas (i.e. health issues, environmental issues, political issues, etc.)
  • Researcher – individual who conducts research for a story and may contact you to obtain additional information or check facts

 

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