Media Relations

Scout Leader Media Guide

by Andy Polhamus- ajpolhamus@gmail.com 
Content Editor at Helio (featuring Medical News), former reporter at South Jersey Times/NJ.com

What makes a story? Newsworthiness is broken down by a number of factors: importance,
prominence, human interest, conflict, change, proximity, timeliness, magnitude, relevance and
  • This simply means a story should contain a hook that will interest the general public
  • An annual fundraising sale is not news (though you can include local journalists in your announcements). But a scout who restores a veteran’s memorial, park or historic location? That’s news. Here’s a slightly different example. Nothing is guaranteed—we’ll get back to this.* Location, audience, etc. are all things a journalist has to consider.
Who am I talking to when I want to pitch a story?
  • Your message may go to directly to a reporter, but more likely, if it’s an email, you’ll beasked to send your inquiry to an editor or a general account used by a media outlet’s entire staff. Don’t be discouraged! All news organizations use these accounts to assign stories. If they are interested, your story will find its way to the right person.
  • For a more direct line of communication, call and ask to speak with the person who covers your town (but don’t waste their time or your own).
  • Journalists get a bad rap in 2017, but the vast majority are locals, not the people you see on MSNBC or Fox. They are overworked and underpaid, like teachers. Also, like teachers, they live in your area and care about their neighbors.
  • If you get turned down or rejected, it’s not because they don’t care. It’s probably because they are busy. What this means is that you should keep trying.
How can I obtain coverage for my event/story/issue?
  • Be prepared: contact multiple outlets explaining your story in as much detail as possible.
  • Include dates, full names and ages, explanations of the groups or charities involved, the goal of the project and photos if possible. If you can give your outlet a week or two of advance notice, you are MUCH more likely to get your story covered. Be brief but thorough.
  • Cast a wide net: News outlets WANT you to contact them. Don’t be shy about getting in touch with everyone who makes sense: NJ.com/South Jersey Times, Courier-Post, The Burlington County Times, The Press of Atlantic City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, CBS, ABC, NBC are good places to start. Smaller outlets, including NJPen.com (Camden County), The Sentinel of Gloucester County, The Collingswood Retrospect and even your own township (if the story directly relates to your local government or schools) should also be on your media list. All outlets have publicly listed contact info.
  • Many news outlets have community pages where they post submitted articles. Don’t be afraid to try this if you cannot interest anyone in writing a story.
  • DIY: Use social media to go directly to the audience. Most towns have homemade, unofficial pages where people post gossip, complaints, fundraisers and small news items. Journalists follow these too, and it may be one more way of getting yourself noticed. You’ll also be interacting directly with the people most interested in your cause.
  • Get involved!