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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How do I get the Indy to cover a story?

Posted by on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 at 7:48 AM

Let's be candid: News journalists are crusty, cynical curmudgeons whose bedtime reading consists of grand jury indictments and toxic release inventory reports. We traffic in bad news; our currency is injustice. Conflict gets us out of bed in the morning. So do malice and malfeasance, lying and greed. This is why we're a hit at dinner parties.

Music, film and culture writers have slightly sunnier dispositions, but only because they get a lot of free stuff in the mail.

So, confronted with these daunting and admittedly dark scenarios, how do you—event organizer, concerned citizen, struggling restaurant owner, metal band from Missoula—get in the paper?

First, as I advised potential freelancers in last week's post: Read the paper. Is there a writer or editor who covers stories in the same vein as the one you would pitch? To find staff emails, go to the bottom of our website and click on "Contact." We can also connect you with a freelancer.

Secondly, and please don't take this personally: Being an advertiser doesn't give you a leg up on editorial coverage. Let me explain: You'll notice that some publications will run a "story" about, let's say, a wedding planner. And wow, on the same or adjacent page is an ad for the same wedding planner. What a coincidence! What are the chances!? Well, 100 percent if that publication practices what industry lingo calls "pay to play."

We don't do it. We thank you for your business, but our editorial code of ethics dictates that we cannot consider advertising in deciding what to cover. As an advertiser that should comfort you because the policy means our editorial coverage is truly independent and does not go to the highest bidder.

Other tips:

Tell us why your story is special. What makes it interesting? Offbeat? What's at stake? Of the thousands of metal bands, why should we write about yours? And don't say that it's because your guitarist shreds. They all do.

If you have dirt to dish, make sure you have your facts in order and, if possible, documents or materials to support your claim.

If everyone is covering it, that makes us less likely to do so. There are exceptions, of course, and in those cases, we want to approach the story from a different overlooked angle or viewpoint.

Our business stories focus on restaurants and their ilk, which run in the food section. We also run pieces about museums and other artistic/ music venues in the context of larger cultural commentary. But we don't cover business, per se, as in the kind of pieces you find in the Triangle Business Journal.

We run stories written by our readers in Front Porch and First Person. These pieces often are very personal but also have universal appeal with a larger lesson to be learned. This is different from a journal entry. That point bears repeating. (Grayson Currin edits Front Porch; I edit First Person.)

And finally, the most read part of the paper is not the 5,000-word exposé on Art Pope; it's the calendar. Strike that: It's Free Will Astrology, and then the calendar. Anyway, if it's an event, make sure you send your info to the calendar. Peter Blackstock, our calendar coordinator, can be reached at calendar@indyweek.com. If it's a political or activism event, it will likely be slotted in Act Now. Everything else is placed in the arts, music or film calendars. Deadline for submission is one week before publication date.

Now playing: Keith Olbermann discussing the SWAT invasion of Chapel Hill, calling it "an extraordinary scene."

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How do I get coverage in the Indy? Or why you never see stories about bake sales.

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