Periodically we get complaints from individuals, synagogues, and organizations about their coverage — or lack thereof — in NJJN. And by “periodically” I mean every week. It is the nature of a community as big as ours — with dozens of institutions, competing programs, and demands on people’s time — that someone gets more attention than someone else. This is not because we are biased toward the “big” organizations or the frequent advertisers (although, honestly, we can always use more of the latter). It’s because we have a small staff and a very, very active community.
To help organizations and individuals tell their stories in the paper and on our website, we’d like to share some tips for “getting in.” Tip one: Think like an editor. We get dozens of news releases and e-mails every day. Here are a few ideas for getting the attention you think you deserve:
Superlatives. Assume that reporters have seen it all before. What is special, unique, unusual, or just plain fascinating about your story?
Human interest. The mere fact of a major event, such as a fund-raising dinner or the launch of a campaign, may not be enough to excite an editor. But is there an angle to the event that will? Does an honoree have a particularly interesting story to tell? Will the event be taking an approach that’s new or rare? Is there a milestone surrounding the event (an anniversary or historical milestone)?
Trends. Help us imagine a bigger story. If your organization is starting a new initiative, can you link it somehow to a regional or national trend?
Current events. If there is a much-talked-about national or local news event, you can assume that NJJN is looking to find a local angle. If there is such a story, don’t assume that we’ll know that your organization or one of its leaders has taken part. Call or e-mail us ASAP.
The calendar. Editors like articles that are pegged to upcoming national and local holidays. That includes the secular holidays (Fourth of July, Veterans’ Day) and the Jewish holidays. Or historical anniversaries that may tie into the work of your group, or various public awareness months (did you know May is Zombie Awareness Month?). Just remember to get in touch with us a good four weeks or more before the events in question.
Op-eds. We publish locally written op-eds, 650-850 words long. We want the op-ed pages to be a forum for a range of ideas and political perspectives. We ask that such articles have appeal for a wide audience. It’s okay to be self-serving, but not only self-serving. We favor op-eds written by people with standing, i.e., demonstrative expertise in the subject at hand, or the authority to speak on behalf of an institution. But the main criteria are quality and civility.
Letters to the editor. Less is always more, and a letter of 250 words or fewer is a good, punchy way to reach the public. We try to print all of the responsible letters that we receive. We prefer letters that refer to an article that appeared in the paper in a previous issue. We frown on letters that are simultaneously distributed to other news outlets. And we ask that the letters address the facts or opinions expressed in an article and do not cast aspersions on the intelligence, home life, religious proclivities, or physical appearance of the person who wrote the article.
Photos. A picture is worth a 1,000-word article. Readers tend to look at photos even when they skim articles. Assign a photographer to your event who can deliver professional quality pictures. Send them to us along with extensive caption information — the who, what, where, when, and why.
Advertise. We’re committed to covering the news whether or not you advertise. But if you want to assure visibility for your institution or event (and the viability of NJJN), it literally pays to advertise.
Once you have a good angle for a story, it’s time to contact us. Before you do:
Hone your pitch. Once you have a good “hook” for a story, try to boil it down into the one short paragraph that will make it irresistible (while including the five W’s). E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone the office (the managing editor at 973-929-3144 or the features editor at 973-929-3133) with your idea. If you phone, follow up in writing.
Deadlines and lead times. Timing is everything. We have available a list of our publication deadlines and special issue dates; send your request to email@example.com. Make sure your relevant staff and volunteers get a copy. Sometimes an announcement doesn’t appear, or we are unable to send a reporter, simply because we did not get an item in time.
Designate a press liaison. This will prevent duplication of efforts and give you and us the ability to track a question or a problem.
Be realistic. We are dedicated to covering every organization, but have limited space and staff. You can do everything right from a PR perspective, but we still may not cover the story the way you would have wished. If you’re feeling ignored, give us a call. And help us help you, by thinking like an editor.