According to the Television Bureau of Advertising, television is the primary news source for 69 percent of Americans, placing it ahead of newspapers, which only 37 percent ranked as their primary news source. In addition, Americans pick television as their most credible news source. In a Roper-Starch survey, 53 percent said they would be more inclined to believe TV when receiving conflicting reports from different media, versus only 23 percent who said they would believe newspapers.
Contacting Television Producers/Editors:
Television is a visual medium. While many of the methods used for approaching newspapers, magazines and radio can also work for TV, a visual element must be considered to make the story more interesting or easier to understand. In general, people being interviewed on camera do not make for engaging television unless they have dynamic personalities or use visuals to demonstrate their messages. A simple chart, timeline or series of photographs can be an engaging visual element for a story about public transportation.
Illustrate Your Message
TV producers often use video news releases (such as a video package produced by your coalition), B-roll (background footage), slides and other graphics to help viewers better understand the information being presented. Think about the visual tools you can offer the producer.
You can increase your chances of obtaining coverage by recognizing the different kinds of television shows and offering a story or commentary that fits the appropriate format. Some of the types of shows that can be pitched are:
- News programs, such as the local and national network and cable news, look for short feature segments of interest. Local shows obviously prefer a local connection.
- News features shows, such as 60 Minutes, 20/20, Nightline and Dateline, do longer feature segments, usually focusing on an important issue, trend or individual’s story.
- Talk shows range from local cable TV to Larry King Live. At the national level, the PT² campaign is likely to be most interested in programs such as Meet the Press, This Week, Charlie Rose and Hardball. Local public affairs talk shows offer opportunities for local coalitions. These shows are generally produced by individual stations and are hosted by local TV news anchors, commentators or reporters. Segments on these programs are often longer and may involve live interviews.
- Phone-in programs offer the opportunity for your coalition and its allies to dial in and ask questions or raise specific topics.
- Editorials, commentary or public service announcements allow you to communicate your unfiltered messages in 10-, 30- or 60-second formats.
How to reach out to television stations: Unless you are in a major television market, your local television station is not likely to have a reporter assigned to transportation issues. Large market or small, your best contacts are likely to be the station’s assignment editor and news director. These are the individuals who decide what news to cover and assign reporters to stories each day.
In addition, the producers of talk shows at local television or cable stations are useful contacts to include in your media list. These people often seek out interesting individuals and organizations to present editorial opinions or to debate timely issues. You can also contact the station manager or program director to suggest topics and speakers for on-air editorials and commentaries.
Standard deadlines for television vary according to the type of program, but typical ones include:
- Editorials/ PSAs: Produced two to four weeks in advance
- News feature shows/some national talk shows: Lead times range from one or two weeks to as long as two months, depending on the program.
- News shows/current-events talk shows:"Day of," usually by 10 a.m. for the 6 p.m. news
Top Three People To Know at TV Stations
Station manager determines editorial policy and usually oversees the selection of topics for on-air commentaries.
Program producer, director or researcher controls the story lineup for each newscast.
News assignment editor is the day-to-day decision maker on which stories get covered. You can also go directly to the appropriate reporter, who will decide whether to present the story to the assignment editor.