Many journalists, despite their ability to ask tough questions, don’t like to utter the words “no” or “I’m not interested” to a PR pro pitching a story.
Reporters often prefer to ignore emails and rationalize that they are too busy to answer them anyway. (This rationalization is frequently made prior to their ducking into a back room to spend time complaining about management.)
However, if you press a journalist to provide a straight yes or no, don’t be surprised to hear one of the following dodges. (The real story is in italics.)
1. I’m too focused on another project to cover your story, but follow up later. (If you actually remember to do so, don’t expect a response.)
2. I’ve been swamped, which is why I haven’t covered the story you pitched (even though I work in a small, slow news market which publishes stories about stolen bicycles).
3. The shoot went great. (I’m uncomfortable telling you this face to face, but I’ll tell the producer this sucked.)
4. Email me a summary of your pitch (and when you call back in a week, I still won’t have read it).
5. I’m definitely interested in the story, but I can’t cover it for a while (and by that time I will have accepted a new job elsewhere).
6. I will pass your idea along to the producer of a more suitable newscast (which means I will fulfill my responsibility by shooting off a bland email without walking a few feet to the other producer’s desk or providing a passionate argument on why to cover the idea).
7. I will pass this idea along to the assignment desk (which means hell no!).
8. Your idea sounds like too much of a commercial (although you could likely find 10 recent examples on our newscasts that resemble commercials).
9. I like the idea, but the producers didn’t (which means I didn’t love the idea enough myself and didn’t fight for it during the editorial meeting, but pitching it fulfilled my quota of bringing daily ideas to the table).
10. If you find a local example, we’ll cover the story (and if you actually shock me by finding someone local for me to interview, I’ll dodge your emails).
A former TV reporter, Keith Yaskin owns The Flip Side Communications in Scottsdale, Arizona, which provides video production, employee communications, public relations and media training.