In my workshop “Hey Boss, Mike Wallace is on Line 2,” I share a sneaky tip about how to do background checks on reporters.
Not the kind that will tell you whether they’ve been picked up for drunken driving or filed for bankruptcy. Rather, the kind that will help you determine what kind of interviewer and writer they are likely to be–dense, prepared, combative, respectful, or a bulldog.
If a reporter calls you for an interview, and you’re curious, here’s how to find out more about the reporter. Call the newspaper or magazine, ask for the library, and request copies of the reporter’s last three or four articles. You might have to buy them, but it will be worth it. Or look for the reporter’s byline in recent back issues at the library, or at the publication’s website.
Review the articles, then call people who the reporter quoted or
interviewed. Say, “I’m curious. I see you were interviewed by Diane Deadline last week. She’s coming to interview me tomorrow about our hospital’s new cardiac care department. What can you tell me about her?”
Then get ready for an earful.
People love to talk about reporters. They particularly love to gripe about them. So don’t rely on just one source and then draw a conclusion. Talk to several people.
If you hear, for instance, that Diane did voluminous research before interviewing her sources, you should expect that she will have researched your hospital, too. If you hear that she acted like a lost puppy when covering a hospital merger story last week, you might want to spend extra time educating her about your organization. You also might want to produce a media kit, backgrounder material, and be available after the interview in case she needs to call you and ask follow-up questions.
If you need information quickly, you can also check a fee-based website that has a comprehensive database of more than 6,000 profiles of influential journalists. It includes information on the public record and provided directly by the reports themselves. Find out more about this service in the January/February 2005 issue of the Publicity Hound subscription newsletter.
Order the issue here and be reading it in a few minutes.