(Special thanks to the Afterschool Alliance for this information.)
Like it or hate it, respect it or scoff at it, one fact remains: the media exert enormous influence over the way Americans think about their common culture, their politics, their communities, and their world.
Admittedly, it is sometimes tempting to ignore the news media, or at least certain types of media. But to do so is to ignore opportunities to teach and to build understanding.
Engaging the news media is therefore vitally important for afterschool advocates. To be most effective, it’s helpful to know some of the basics about the media, how reporters work, how best to communicate with them, how to plan a media campaign, and in general how best to use the media to communicate your story to the public.
How the News Media Works
- Generally speaking, most news stories have to do with conflict, events and issues that affect the readership or broadcast audience, local angles on national issues, appealing human interest stories, and celebrity events.
- Journalists usually work on very tight timelines.
- Local media generally focus on local news. National news coverage in local newspapers, and on local television and radio news programs, is often provided to the station by national wire services or broadcast news services.
- Most local markets have at least a handful of radio (and sometimes television) talk shows. Many of these are excellent outlets.
|Type of Media||Newspaper||TV||Radio|
|Timelines||Usually daily||Usually daily, even hourly with late-breaking news||Usually daily for news, but varies|
|Who to contact about stories||Reporter assigned to cover local schools, otherwise an editor||Assignment desk editors route incoming news releases and decide who, if anybody, will cover a given story||Assignment editor decides whether a local station will cover a story and who will cover it|
|Length||Varies from a news brief (a few paragraphs) to a feature story (which can be several thousand words)||Typically less than a minute or two long||Very brief, often less than a minute or two|
|Important Notes||Emphasize newsworthiness, such as local angles on national trends, “new” information, conflict, etc.||Must have images to go along with news||Typically do not gather their own news, but report from other news sources|
How to Best Communicate With the Media:
- You will need to choose from among a number of vehicles for getting your message out, including news releases, news conferences, meetings with editorial writers and much more.
- To conduct a media effort well, you’ll need a telephone number the media can use to reach you or a message-taker every time they try. No busy signals allowed!
When to Communicate With the Media:
- Reach out to the media when you have an interesting and newsworthy story.
- Reach out when there’s a story already in the news to which you can contribute a useful “afterschool” perspective.
- Reach out when you need to respond to a negative development.
How to Frame Your Message:
- Plan your message carefully. Write it out and practice it out loud before any interview.
- Make sure you deliver the important points of your message every time. Even if you’ve heard yourself make those points a thousand times, your audience hasn’t!
- Consider a core message that touches on the way afterschool programs free parents of a major worry about their children’s afternoon time; the enormous educational and social benefits of afterschool; and afterschool programs’ track record of keeping children safe and away from bad behaviors.