From a Press Release to Cooperative Journalism

Pitching stories to newspapers with leaner staffs, less news space and different incentives requires more than a press release. It demands cooperative journalism.The odd experience of pulling The Oregonian out of the middle of ad "inserts" tells you all you need to know about the state of contemporary newspapers. It also should tell you something about your chances to land a story in the news columns.

Organizations often substitute their need for coverage for a newspaper's ability to provide it. This only leads to confusion and disillusion with traditional media.

Newspaper staffs are leaner and working within new incentives, such as the need to develop an online presence. With less news space, the competition for stories is intense. Soppy story pitches won't grab much attention for reporters and editors on the prowl for stories with some pop.

Communicators can throw up their hands in disgust or they can resolve to become more of a partner with newspaper reporting teams. They can commit to story pitches with punch and built-in help pursuing the story line.

This is different from brand journalism, which is essentially applying journalistic storytelling to advertising. What we are looking at is something more akin to cooperative journalism.

Cooperative journalism requires a collective understanding of what makes news and the importance of storytelling. It also requires an appreciation of the journalist's job and professional responsibilities. It is not spoon-feeding a story to a reporter.

Done right, cooperative journalism can bring forward engaging ideas for stories and practical leads or excellent contacts to prosecute the story. Solid journalists won't stop at your suggestions and will pursue other angles and make additional contacts. That's all for the good because it takes your story idea and casts it in a larger sphere.

The currency of cooperative journalism depends on more than just a "really good press release." Actually, a press release could be a deterrent, appearing as if you are pushing your story, not inviting a reporter to examine an issue with some of your suggested directions.

The reality of today is that issuing a bundle of press releases might capture a blurb here and there, but miss the larger opportunity for a more in-depth feature story. The value of the feature story is that it can provide third-party recognition of the problem you want identified and the solution you advocate.

You can post your press release on your own website, which is a good thing. But posting a major newspaper story you had a hand in generating and that includes your comments, can be a much better thing.