Friday, July 13, 2007

Why stories don't get covered

PR people generate 50 percent of the “news”. Even in the Wall Street Journal, 45 percent of the articles are generated by PR firms, according to the Columbia Review of Journalism.

Nonetheless, 95 percent of all press releases get thrown away. Only 5 percent see themselves in print or broadcast.

Why not? Lots of reasons. They are:

a. They don’t give us a reason to care.
b. They don’t affect very many people.
c. They don’t sound like there’s going to be any interesting “visuals” for TV.

Full of jargon and bureaucrateez. It’s written in language that is unintelligible to the uninitiated. If a six-year-old can’t understand it, the media doesn’t have time for it.

Too complicated. You’ve got to hone it to one major point. Maybe one minor one, if the major one isn't too complicated.

Have no facts.
a. Show the importance of the subject with exact details.
b. Use attention-grabbing stats to back it up.

Have no anecdotal leads or sources. Have two types of people:
a. Anecdotal lead: Someone who has suffered because of the problem or succeeded because of the solution.
b. Reliable sources: Someone from a non-profit, a university, a government body or a business who can speak to—and verify—the facts.

Full of errors or omissions. If the editor or reporter has to pick up the phone to answer basic questions, it goes into the To Do pile—and gets forgotten.

Not easily digested. There are huge blocks of boring text. No who, what, where, why, when. No bullets, no bold headlines or headings, no color.

Have no visuals. TV stations look for moving pictures. Fast facts and sound bites are necessary for content, but it’s a visual medium. They need action—something or someone moving--the faster, the better. If you must have talking heads, get a large, visually interesting backdrop.

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