Why didn’t you cover my (insert thing you didn’t cover here)?
Virtually every day for the 5,363,982 days I’ve been working for a newspaper, someone has come in wanting free publicity. What do you tell these people?
For my part, I always try to be respectful and offer some avenue for a win-win. Granted, sometimes folks just won’t take no for an answer and I have been known to be less than saintly in these conversations. But nine times out of 10, we can figure out some way to share the information in a way that makes sense, and sometimes that means advertising.
The first trick is determining whether this is newsworthy on some level. Has it been done before? Is it interesting to a wide audience? Does it merit staff time? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” all parties are about to be happy. This looks like a story for the print newspaper and your website.
That’s fine if the circus is coming to town, but what if it’s smaller than that. What if it’s a kid’s Cub Scout matriculation or word of a new insurance agent? What do you do with that stuff?
My rule of thumb is this: If it’s a non-profit or an important event in the lives of real local people, I try to find a place for it. It may be a brief on a community page or even simply a post and picture on Facebook. Social media is great for stuff like this and frees up your time for bigger things in the paper. If, however, it’s commercial — like the insurance agent — I’m likely to suggest an advertisement. After all, as my wise former publisher Debra Hershon would say, “Editorial is something you pray for, advertising is something you pay for.” If the reason you walked into the newspaper office was to drum up business, you want an advertisement. …
There is another category, and that is stuff with little local focus. It might be a new shop just outside your circulation area, or an author coming to read her book the next town over. On rare occasions I have room for things like that in a calendar. Very rare occasions.
Lastly, what do you do about things that come up every dang year? Is it always news that some local people organize a clean-up around the lake every May 1? Well… Probably, if it’s important to them. It might be a 1A centerpiece the first year and only a brief in subsequent years. It is important that folks know they can’t necessarily expect the same coverage from year to year.
What are your rules for things that just walk in the door?