Journalists need your help.
We always need your help.
But before we get into the how, let’s discuss the why.
Media organisations don’t often talk about how the sausage gets made. Shows like Media Watch touch on elements, but not comprehensively. University and school courses teach the theory, but rarely the actual process.
Every day, journalists are bombarded with requests for coverage. From business, government, politicians, statutory authorities, shire councils — the lists of names on the media releases are endless.
The problem is most of these entities don’t really want coverage. They want an ad, a rosy telling of their story to be shared and disseminated among the masses.
Many organisations employ teams of communications officers to wrangle us humble journos. They outnumber us between four and 10 to one, depending on which set of statistics you cite, and are much, much better paid.
Some are pretty good at their jobs, usually the ones with newsroom experience who understand our job is investigating and telling balanced stories of public interest.
The terrible ones seem to think journalists are a nuisance at best, or at worst, simply there to push their own agenda.
They’ll ring up and whinge and complain, yell at us, write angry letters to our bosses, demand we never speak to anyone but themselves ever again, trying to gate-keep us from their entire organisation.
It gets quite amusing at times. (A little secret to getting the best possible coverage out of a journalist is to play fair, play polite and play professionally — a tactic lost on some.)
And much of the time a media release is of little public interest.
If you want to advertise, save some money on that enormous communications team and spend it on an ad.
The best stories usually come from the public themselves.
Tip-offs, complaints, whistle-blowing, observations — it’s all good. We love getting information from the public because if you care enough to bother telling us, there is a chance it is important.
We don’t care if you can write a press release. We don’t care who you are or how much you earn or what your job title is. We care about the story.
There are many ways to contact us, officially, casually or secretly. We can show you how to encrypt calls or emails. We can come to you and meet privately. We can and will protect your identity, if warranted. We have laws to protect us when protecting your identity. It is the story we are interested in, not you, unless you are the story.
Tell us your story or one you’ve heard.
We will never guarantee the issue will get coverage, but we will guarantee to look into it.
The best stories rarely come from media releases; they usually come from people just like you.
Myles Peterson is a News journalist.