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pitching a newspaper story question

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I want to pitch a story idea to a local newspaper columnist. We've exchanged emails over the years here and there so we're on friendly terms. But not being in the newspaper business myself, I'm not sure how far in advanced I need to pitch. The story is about my son's drum and bugle corps and they are coming to town at the end of July. (Years ago, the columnist did an awesome piece on his own kids' marching band experience so I know he'd do a fabulous job.) When should I approach him?

Thanks.
#1 - June 14, 2012, 08:08 AM
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AdamV

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If you run into him, you might mention it earlier, but I'd do a more formal press release (with a personal note) 2-3 weeks in advance. I'm sure he'd appreciate any info you can provide him to make his job easier. You could then send up a follow-up a week or so out. My wife works at our local newspaper, and it is absolute chaos. If you do it too soon, the story might be forgotten or lost in the shuffle. 

Also, take into account what section it might be in. If there's a local events section that runs once a week, you'll have to build in that extra time.
#2 - June 14, 2012, 08:23 AM
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 08:31 AM by AdamV »

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Check his deadlines. I work for a series of community newspapers and I have to send in my stories a good three weeks in advance, so I need to do the interviews as much as a month in advance. The timing should be good. The end of July is usually a slow period and he is likely to appreciate the story suggestion.

LindaB
#3 - June 18, 2012, 06:33 PM

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I agree with what's been said -- although, FWIW, I worked at a major city newspaper for a number of years, the bulk of the time in the editorial office, and sometimes columnists just went off the cuff with something that struck them -- and our editor let them (say, a week or less to deadline). If it's a true human interest story that a columnist would really give life to -- the'll go there, even a couple of days before deadline. If just a listing of events (yes, I did that too), definitely a couple of weeks out to a specific date.

And, again, not sure how this works for local papers, but in our newsroom, you could send the same press release to three different departments initially, and it would all wash out, as far as who would cover it and how.

(And, now with online news, I work for events listings of a big-city website and I often post things on the day that they happen....)

I guess what I'm saying is -- sooner is better. But the story might get picked up just a few days before the event, depending on the news cycle and available inches. ;)
#4 - June 18, 2012, 06:44 PM

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Send an email and don't worry how early you are. Just keep in mind things often get lost in the shuffle in newsrooms, so don't be afraid to email again after a couple of days if you haven't heard back.  Good luck!  Sounds like an interesting story. Hope you get coverage.  Also - have you considered pitching to your local tv news?  Drum and bugle corps are great video and make excellent tv stories.  :)
#5 - June 19, 2012, 11:54 PM

Dionna

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As a freelance writer, I have written the article first, emailed the editor a query, mentioning the article's word-count, had them request it, and they published it the same week! Now they pitch ME the story's subject!
#6 - June 20, 2012, 03:58 AM

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