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In Part 1 of a two-part blog, guest blogger and UK-based freelance journalist Alex Oxborough looks at how to get your communication in the news.
What is news? A deceptively simple question, but it is key to a better understanding of how to work with the media, and through them, how to get your embassy or department’s story across to the public. Partly a science, and partly an art, news is whatever the public will find to be informative and, as news outlets are entertainment providers, engaging. Although the Internet has effectively changed the face of modern reporting, when it comes to online media, the same basic principles of journalism apply.
Last week, the UK media’s coverage of the London 2012 Olympics went from being enthusiastic, to what could only be described as ecstatic. The ‘Olympic gold rush’ gave journalists and editors a bit of a problem - how to make a story stand out from the crowd. Simply announcing ‘Team GB scoops gold’ was not enough to grab attention, so the editorial talents of the nation’s press turned to superlatives to inspire the reading public. Instead the headlines focused on the greatest, highest, fastest, and longest to create the sense of urgency that current affairs reporting relies on.
A torrent of medals in cycling led to a dizzying clash of headlines. One moment Bradley Wiggins, fresh from Tour de France success, was the Greatest British Olympian Ever, and the next it was Sir Chris Hoy. A glance at the medal tables revealed that both of them had a claim to the title (I humbly suggest a cycle-off), depending on how the medal table was read. Ah… lies, damn lies and statistics at play again.
This all quite neatly illustrates how news reporting works. The media market place is crowded and any story, no matter how important, has milliseconds to make an impression. To do so, journalists carefully filter information and select a news angle that they hope will capture the reader’s imagination. But, due to shrinking editorial budgets and ever increasing numbers of news outlets, journalists themselves have very little time to understand and frame a story.
To make sure that the story you want to publicise stands out from the pile of news feeds and press releases the average journalist receives every day, it helps to present it with a readymade inspirational angle. While a story about a visiting member of state might not make the papers, a story about the first time a member of state has visited from that country may well have widespread appeal.
For a list of the most frequently used angles, see here.
Alex Oxborough is a freelance journalist based in the UK. Her work has been published in Sussex Life, Society for the Protection of Rural England website
Culture 24, Country Living blog, Pretty Litter, Brighton Lite, and The Brighton Source. She holds an NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism and has an active interest in diplomacy and the role it plays in today's world.