When news is breaking and you get breaking news alerts from CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and any other news organization you monitor, STOP PITCHING and start following the event that has every newsroom in the country scrambling.
Let’s use the earthquake in Haiti as an example.
Put yourself into the middle of any newsroom… First, there’s shock. Then, phones begin ringing off the hook from listeners worried about loved ones working or vacationing in Haiti.
Stations are trying to get facts and figures on the devastation – they are looking at airline cancellations, trying to establish contact with Haitian hospitals and government officials, hoping to hear news about visitors to Haiti from their local areas who could be injured or dead. As a media representative, this is the worst time to pitch an interview not related to this event.
The first day a crisis breaks, national networks are definitely off limits. Unless your interview has an extremely strong tie to the crisis, national networks should be given two to three days to strictly focus on the earthquake. Then e-mail communication would be the best way to ease into a topic not relating to the tragedy in Haiti.
For state, regional, and local stations, the day after the event, media representatives should look at geographic ties to Haiti. Stations where there are large populations of Haitians, or where communities, like those in Florida, are mobilizing to send help to the island, should not be on the call list because most likely they will be completely focused on earthquake coverage for several days.
Stations in the Midwest or on the West Coast –those farther away from the event, are probably not as single-minded and will be looking for “other” news a day or two after the crisis is initially reported.
As a media rep, stay informed… When in doubt, check out station websites and listen to podcasts/newscasts to get an idea of the focus of the day’s coverage and when it’s appropriate for you to move ahead with pitching your story.