Which stories do journalists look for?
Updated: Feb 18
There are, without a doubt, 2 key things ALL journalists seek from ANY story … When I was pitched a story, as a journalist, I would instantly want to know ‘is this new’ and ‘how many people does this affect’. The News is fundamentally a collection of new information. I often worked 10-hour shifts writing refreshed headlines every hour. We’d seek a new angle, a new voice, a new data point or, for tv and online, image every 60 minutes to introduce what was now new! When you pitch a story, you need to make it clear you are offering something new. Your whole story doesn’t have to be brand new. Instead, you can offer yourself, your business or data which takes an existing story in a new, unexpected direction. When I was working in media relations, I organised a press launch for a biannual wildlife festival. It’s increasingly difficult to get any media away from their short-staffed newsrooms for launches. Your best hope is to offer a photo opportunity and, even then, you are usually better saving time and budget and sending photo or video yourself. But this was a few years ago. We dressed up in panda costumes and got some cameras and pretended to be a panda crew making a documentary about humans in their habitat of central Bristol. The surprised public on their lunch breaks interacted with us, taking their own selfies. And we conveniently did all this close to the local newspaper office. For some reason, the media go mad over pandas. I really don’t know why. We got on the front page. The other critical element journalists look for, aside from how new something is, is how many people does your story impact? It is relatively easy to get the UK media interested in a story which impacts every young person and their parents/carers in England, for example anything about GCSEs or A levels. It’s much harder to get them interested in a story which impacts a subset of people aged 85+ unless of course that small group provides a new voice on a current story. For example, a rise in 85+ people getting GCSEs (I’ve made that up, I don’t know if that’s true). These two factors – is this story new and does it affect large numbers work together. And to give your pitch the biggest chance you want to make sure you push BOTH as far as you can in your story. Journalists aren’t interested in new products or anything that comes close to advertising what you make buuuuut they are interested in new products that do things that have never been done before and/or will have a tangible impact, changing the lives of a huge number of people immediately.