People in the media will never admit to outsiders, but they often think their occupation gives them a license to snoop.
I certainly thought so when I worked as a newspaper reporter in Ohio in the seventies and eighties. In fact, I loved to eavesdrop during my lunch hour.
I’d go to a local restaurant with another reporter and order lunch. Then, instead of making idle chatter, we’d just sit there listening to the conversation in the next booth.
What we overheard resulted in a few raised eyebrows, but little else. And I can’t remember when it ever led us on the hot pursuit of a story. But I was reminded about a reporter’s insatiable love for gossip when I saw the list called “50 Places to Shop for Stories,” written specifically for reporters, at the NewsCollege website.
Smart Publicity Hounds will pay attention to this list. Notice, for example, that Number 22 is “Eavesdrop: Eavesdrop at the grocery store checkout. Eavesdrop at the coffee shop. Eavesdrop at the arena or sports field. Learn to listen to what people are talking about.”
So be careful what you say and where you say it. A reporter could be listening.
Other things you can learn from this list:
Number 34: Weather, weather, weather. “From your local weather office, monthly stats are readily available on temperatures, snowfall, rainfall, etc. It’s no secret that readers love weather stories.” It’s also no secret that most reporters hate cover the weather. As I wrote in “Special Report #37: How to Tie Your Product, Service, Cause or Issue to the Weather,” publicity is practically yours for the taking whenever you call your newspaper and tell a reporter how that day’s weather affects your product, service, cause or issue.
Number 50: Letters to the editor: “They offer additional viewpoints on subjects, possibly other angles for stories. The writers are also commonly Average Joe Citizens bringing to light an injustice, a complaint or opposition/approval of an impending decision by government.” That’s right. On slow news days, I frequently scanned the Letters to the Editor page in my own newspaper looking for story leads.
If you aren’t writing letters to the editor, now is the time to start. Editors seldom edit them. So what you write is pretty much what you’ll see in the newspaper. Ditto for opinion columns.
Using the editorial pages for publicity is a frequently overlooked but powerful publicity tool.