Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to Pitch Story Ideas to ABC News

Sat in today on a very interesting, off-the-record "reporter roundtable" at one of my favorite DC PR firms. The guest reporter was a correspondent for ABC News who is mostly a TV reporter with Diane Sawyer's ABC World News Tonight. But in this day and age of 24/7 news, she also reports for ABC radio and Some of her insights into how the PR industry can effectively pitch journalists include:

- Networks want exclusives, health and new technology stories, real people, heartstrings, opinions, and video video video (or at least stories with great imagery).
- Mass transit and infrastructure stories, to a name a couple, are very tough sells.
- Pocket cameras are now what correspondents carry into the field all over the world.
- Media companies have no money for bureau reporters, so they're happy to run phone interviews, and use many stories on radio and the web. Stories about mass transit, for example, will never get on TV but are great for other company holdings like the web and radio.
- Providing the media with B-roll of lengthy shots, with good sound, shot digitally in 16x9, is a great service companies can offer. Interviews within that B-roll won't be used at the network level, but some regional and local media may use them.

As for whether to pitch Good Morning America versus World News Tonight, here are a few other tips:
- GMA used to be touchy feelie, but it's trying to be harder now. The show will run consumer-friendly stories with a news edge in "segment 6." It is mostly all about exclusives. As GMA moves into its later hours, softer stories come into play with lots of live guests. World News Tonight is more enterprising and also focuses on top news. ABC will not cover "process" stories like Hill policy; CBS will though. Nightline has hard news when necessary, but has been leaning more lately to hip, sign-of-the-times stories.

The ABC journalist added that the editor/correspondent relationship has rapidly changed. Five years ago, about half the stories were assigned by the editors. Now, correspondents have to pitch constantly. She said about half her story ideas are personally generated with the other half coming from pitches from PR agencies and other media-relations experts and sources. Pitching both her and her producers is never a bad idea because they all receive so much email that at least one of them is liable to miss the pitch altogether.

The journalist, finally, added that Twitter and blogs are both extremely important sources for people in her profession. Facebook, on the other hand, at least in her experience, is too much work for journalists because by the time they get home, the last thing they want to check is, essentially, more email.


  1. Excellent insight into content location & timing.

    Thanks for the ideas.