This is how pitching news tips to reporters sometimes works. In this case, it worked, but of course it does not always work out this way.
When I was pitching a news tip to a reporter in America about an issue I was involved with, I sent him this note after first spotting his name and newspaper affiliation on Twitter.
“I have a news tip for a possible news story by you in the February-March time frame, ” I said in my first email contact. “Is this something you can report on, or does an assignment editor have to assign it to you? How does the process work? I was thinking mid-March might be good timing and maybe you can sit in on one of the college classes with the professor I mentioned in order to get feel for how students react? Just an idea.”
The reporter emailed back to me and said: ”I am fascinated by the idea. I bounced it off our news outlet’s New York editor and he said to ‘go ahead and do it.’ If you’d like to call me at my office next week, we can chat.”
Buoyed by his positive reactions and the positive reactions from his editor in Manhattan, I called the reporter right back from my office in Tokyo and chatted with him for half an hour.
When the reporter asked for some more details, I mentioned two books worth knowing about and reading: ”Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver and “Odds against Tomorrow” by Nathaniek Rich.
“Nice to chat with you by phone,” I said in a subsequent email. “Have fun with this story if it works for you and your editors in New York and thanks for tracking it all down.”
I added: “I will send you a link to Bll McKibben’s 2005 essay in Grist magazine where he said: ”Hey where are the novels and movies about global warming? We need artists to explore this issue, too. Where are they?”
“Well, cli-fi novels are in the pipeline now, and college students are reading them in dozens of cli-fi classes nationwide,” I told the reporter in a subsequent email a week later. You can quote me on that if you want a quote.”
I also suggested that the reporter speak with some people he might want to talk to for quotes, and named 12 (with their email adresses and Twitter handles) for him.
Later, in early March, two months after I first contacted the reporter with my gentle, soft-spoken pitch, the reporter wrote back with an ”advisory,” saying:
”Hi Danny: Unless I get distracted by some unforeseen piece of news, I am planning to write about this issue this weekend.
I find you everywhere online. How and why did you get into this? And can you give me a bit of background on you?
If you’d like to answer here that would be fine. If you’d like to call and chat that would be ok too, but I do realize we have opposite schedules in terms of time zones on other sides of the world.”
Finally, just before the article went live on the internet worldwide a few days later, the reporter sent me a quick note to say that the story was coming out that coming weekend but that he was not able to get my name or connection to the story into his article for space reasons, and that he hoped I would not be disappointed at the development over limited space in writing up the story for publication.
“The story is coming out Sunday,” the reporter in said. “I hope you’re not disappointed, but I couldn’t get you into it for reasons of space limitations. It was a fun story to research and write. I’m glad you sought me out.”
I replied in internet time: “Sir, no problem on not putting my name or work in the article. I prefer, in fact, to remain the shadows. You know, the role of a good PR guy is to stay in the background and let the article follow its own arc. All this was never about me, but about the real writers and academics and scientists doing the heavy lifting. I’m just the bat boy, the water boy, unseen, invisible. I love being in the background. Let the quotes from others work their magic.”
”I am sure I will love yr story on Sunday,” I told the reporter on the other side of the world. “I already love it. Your byline will make the story sing! I am glad Twitter brought us together by email and phone. It was great to get to know you and I am now a fan for life! I love reporters, especially those like you who know how to tell a good story. Can’t wait. And thanks for letting me know the date. Sunday. I will read it on Monday here in Japan and given the reach of your newspaper with the wire, it will likely appear in print in the papers here later on. I am delighted! I couldn’t have found a better byline. Storyteller par excellence. The new is in good hands.”
”My name not germane to the news article. I’m just a quiet gadfly and I’m happy to promote the other people in the story. I know my place. In the shadows. But yes, fun to meet you and renew my memories of of the newspaper trade. I was very lucky to find you! Thanks again.”