Thousands of communities are at risk of becoming news deserts, because they have lost their local newspapers. As the number of newspaper owners declines, more and more small-town and rural newspapers are closing. This can threaten the vitality of these communities for years to come. Fortunately, there are new models being developed to provide local news.
The first step is to determine who owns your newspaper. These are the people who set the editorial vision for your paper. Many families and community-based organizations have sold their papers to large companies. The biggest chains own two-thirds of all dailies. In the past decade, half of all papers have changed ownership. Some of these new owners have tried to reinvent the business model of their newspapers. Others have failed. Some of these are for-profit and some are nonprofit.
Next, you need to convince your reporters to publish your story. Your pitch should be brief and compelling. Your message should be focused on your interest, not the news reporter’s. Make sure you leave your contact information. The best time to call is during the morning or afternoon. Don’t leave more than a couple of messages. When you get a response, make sure you follow up.
Another way to persuade your media is to focus on specific events or issues. These can include a major grant award, a successful finish to an initiative, or a significant historical event. You can also tie your story to a topical event, such as the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
One of the most important steps you can take is to find out where your target audience is located. Typically, the less educated and isolated members of society are the ones who have the least access to local news. They are often the poorest. They may be more likely to rely on word of mouth or social networking to obtain the information they need.
For example, if you are an advocate for a minority population, you can pitch a story about a minority group’s inability to obtain the same housing loans that middle class white people can. You can also target newspaper bylines. If you can, try to reach reporters by phone instead of by e-mail. Your goal is to persuade them to tell their readers about your organization.
In addition to providing local news, a newspaper can play a role in building community. For example, the local edition can be used to highlight a job training course, high school equivalency graduation, or a major award contract. Similarly, a sports reporter may be interested in a story about a soccer championship.
During the recession, newspapers suffered financial distress. The number of journalists at newspapers has declined by more than half. There are almost 200 counties in the country without a daily newspaper. As a result, there are almost 7,100 surviving newspapers that are largely defunct.
There are two main types of news stories: hard news and soft news. Hard news is full of important facts. It is also often the most effective way to get your message out to policy makers. In contrast, soft news is the personal side of the news. Examples of a hard news story might be the alarming increase in HIV cases among heterosexual women.