Local news stations welcome ideas from viewers. If you have a general story idea or tip, you can quickly submit your information by email or by phone at most stations. On the other hand, if you are trying to get news coverage for an event you are planning or wish to book an interview, you may want to issue a press release.
Submit an Idea by Email
Identify the proper reporter or department. Many television news reporters specialize in a particular area, or beat. It is not uncommon for there to be an individual that regularly handles pet problems, crime stories, court decisions, politics or community issues. Pinpointing the right reporter will increase your odds of being heard. If your local station airs regular features that deal with your story idea, such as a “Hometown Heroes” or “Crime Watch” segment, identify whoever handles these and contact him.
Write a specific email detailing your story idea. Include as much relevant information as possible including possible interview subjects, potential station segments that would be a good fit, statistics and news pegs, and reasons why this story should be covered now. Keep your message short and close with your contact information.
Send your email to the station’s assignment editor and relevant reporters. Reporters' email addresses often are readily available. They typically appear on screen when a reporter is on air. The email for the station’s assignment editor may be more difficult to find. Check the website or call the station to get it.
Submit an Idea by Phone
Get the station’s newsroom number. If you can only find the main number in the phone book or online, ask for the newsroom number when you reach the receptionist.
Call the station in the late morning or early afternoon. This is when most newsrooms are the least chaotic.
Ask to speak to an associate producer or the assignment editor. These are the folks responsible for staffing the newsroom during the day. They are also directly responsible for show content.
Submit a Press Release
Plan ahead. A press release should arrive in the mail or by email at least a week before your event.
Write your press release carefully. Use the proper format and don’t forget your contact information.
Send the press release to the person in charge of receiving them. This is usually the assignment editor or associate producer. Letters or emails addressed “To Whom It May Concern” likely will be set aside, thrown in the trash or deleted.
It can be difficult to reach reporters on the phone. They spend most of their time in the field and when they are at their desk they tend to screen calls. You’ll probably only get their voice mail. Contacting them by email likely will work best.
Erica Tambien began writing professionally in 1999. She is a freelance writer and communications consultant living in Reno, Nev. Her work has since appeared on various websites and for KOLO-TV. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Nevada-Reno.