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How to Think Like an Editor
If you want to interest a newspaper or magazine or radio show in covering your business, think like an editor. An editor knows what her audience wants to read or hear. That editor has what is know in the trade as good news judgment.
Patti and Nan jump-started their news judgment skills during their first jobs after college. Patti read through 1,000 letters sent weekly to the Chicago Tribune to pick which ones the editor should consider for the consumer help column. Nan reviewed hundreds of manuscripts from authors around the country to select articles for the 35,000 readers of Horse Lover’s National Magazine.
Give it a try yourself. Which story would you would follow up if you were an editor?
The sheriff drove up to our barn pulling a horse trailer. Or: The first day my daughter rode a horse, she fell off.
“Actually, both stories have potential,” Patti says. “The first one seems to have more drama, but what if the sheriff was just there to load up his own horse and go for a trail ride? Not much news value there. The second story could be a yawner unless the second sentence read, ‘Vowing never to do that again, she went on to Olympic fame as a show jumper.’”
Nan continues, “Knowing your audience is an essential prerequisite to crafting your story to fit their interests. In the first story, if the sheriff was loading up his horse to go out on a search-and-rescue operation, that’s breaking local news. If the story reported the difficulties of back-country rescue operations, that would interest rescue organizations, paramedics, and other non-equestrians.”
News judgment involves knowing what makes an interesting story or tale, press release, book, or even a conversation at a party. It is an important expertise to develop if you want to interest the media in your business.
See if your story includes any of these attributes: touching, substantial, impact, conflict, prominence, proximity, freshness, novelty.
Then, think like an editor and tell your story in a clear, straight forward manner.
Patti recalls,“My best friend would do such a preamble to the stories he told, I had to wave him on to get to the point. He claimed that being from a small town with little happening, he had to drag out stories.”
Nan adds, “An editor would have cut him off mid-story, but his friends enjoyed every word. That’s the difference between news and friendship.”