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Cyberstalking Journalists: It’s Not Bad, It’s Background Research

By on Wednesday, September 8, 2010

If you want to actively work with journalists and pitch a compelling and successful story about your nonprofit organization’s work, it’s important to do your homework. While using the term cyberstalking may be a bit of an exaggeration on my part – you should use the internet to research the reporter you are reaching out to, and learn about their interests and beat.

Review their stories. You should review the stories journalists have written or produced, and get a sense of their interests and what they are assigned to cover. Use Google searches to look up their work, visit the media outlet’s website and search for their name, and review recent newspapers or broadcasts. It doesn’t make sense to pitch a sports reporter a story about a healthcare event, or to ask a reporter covering the military to cover an education story that is not related to the Armed Services.

Read their blogs. Many journalists today blog about their lives and work. This provides you with a window into their lives and interests. A great example is a blog by Jennifer Griffin at Fox News. She blogs about her family life, work as a reporter, and fight against breast cancer.

Follow their twitter feeds. Many journalists are using twitter to promote their stories, interact with story sources/readers/viewers, and keep track of breaking news. Re-tweet info they post that is relevant to your organization. If the journalist is currently overseas on assignment (like Kelly Kennedy listed below), don’t pitch her for a story that means she needs to be on the East coast. Wait. Some examples:

Kevin Baron, Stars & Stripes

Michael Calderone, Yahoo News

Damien Cave, New York Times, Bureau Chief (Miami)

Phil Elliott, Associated Press

Sara Haines, NBC Today Show 

Kelly Kennedy, Military Times

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post

Jen Preston, New York Times

Ali Velshi, CNN 

 And I could go on and on. I currently follow on Twitter more than 150 journalists. I use the lists feature to keep my lists organized, and subscribe my nonprofit client twitter feeds to journalists that cover stories related to their work. Engagement with the media today should be about building relationships and offering compelling story pitches that relate to what the reporter is working on and interested in. The Internet is a great tool to help you do that.

Everyone wants to know what you think.

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