Ashton Marra on How to Pitch Public Broadcasting

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Photo by D.E. Raines

Ashton Marra at Hubapalooza. Photo by D.E. Raines

When you’re trying to get your local newspaper, radio or TV station to do a story about your project or organization, it really helps to be able to put yourself in their shoes.

You have to be able to think to yourself: “What is that journalist or editor looking for in a pitch? What’s going to appeal to them? And, what can I do to make it as easy as possible for them to produce the story I’m after?”

What is that journalist or editor looking for in a pitch? What’s going to appeal to them?

The best way to peer inside the mind of a journalist in this situation is to ask one!

So it was great to have Ashton Marra, the Assistant News Director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, join us at Hubapalooza last week to talk turkey about how to grab her attention with a story pitch that works.

Here’s a recap of Ashton key pieces of advice:

 

 • Know who you are pitching, and be conscious of their world!

WVPB-Reporters-Map“I cover the legislature, so don’t pitch me a story about a community garden in the middle of the legislative session, unless it has a really strong policy angle.”

Be aware of when your journalist might be really busy with other news (is there a huge festival that weekend, or perhaps it’s the day before a gubernatorial election?). For your local paper, find out when the press deadlines are so you aren’t bothering folks right at crunch time.

And, for larger media like WVPB or the Charleston Gazette-Mail, learn “the beats” – which reporter covers the subject matter that your story concerns? (On the right is a map and listing of the WVPB newsroom and each reporter’s beat. You’re welcome.)

 

• Connect your pitch to a bigger, statewide story.

“Convince me that your story matters to people in other parts of the state.”

For example, if you are trying to promote a physical activity initiative at your local elementary school, connect it to the broader issue of the obesity epidemic in kids. Or, if you’re launching a new grocery store or food program, talk about the statewide problem with food deserts and inadequate access to healthy foods in many communities.

 

• Bring a compelling character.

“I want to hear someone that is affected.”

In her example about a story WVPB did about a job fair, Ashton spoke about a young teacher that had been laid off and was having a hard time finding work. Or, in a story about a proposal to cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the unemployed mine worker that was having to chose between paying his electricity bill or feeding his daughter.

When you can bring a compelling character to your pitch, you elevate it to a compelling story that West Virginians all over the state can relate to.

 

• Bring an expert.

Provide the contact information and brief bio of an expert that can contribute to your story.
Pay attention to the stories you hear on the radio or read in the news. The longer-form, in-depth stories always include a quote or background information from an expert in the field. Make your reporter’s job easier and provide the contact information and brief bio of an expert that can contribute to your story.

 

• Bring facts.

See above.

 

• Bring contacts.

When your reporter is on a tight deadline, you need to give them a few options for folks to talk to. Maybe your first choice expert doesn’t return her call, or the editor wants the journalist to explore a different angle. Again, it’s about making your reporter’s life easy. Give them a list of people to talk to about your story, and up to date email addresses and phone numbers.

 

• Is there video? Is there audio?

Give your reporter sufficient lead time to record the video and audio that will be central to your story.
If you’re pitching your story to a TV station or media outlet that using video, what is that video going to be of? In the same sense, if you’re pitching a radio station, what can they record that will provide interest and relevant audio to the story? Make sure you give your reporter sufficient lead time to record the video and audio that will be central to your story, and make it easy for them to be there – whether it be a gathering of school kids, a public speech or a rally.

 

Are you interested in connecting with a reporter or media outlet in your area?
I can help. Email me.

Jake-Lynch

San Diego Union-Tribune: City Offers Tax Credits to Convert Blighted Buildings to Community Gardens

Photo by David Brooks/San Diego Union Tribune

Photo by David Brooks/San Diego Union Tribune

SAN DIEGO — Aiming to boost access to healthy food while sprucing up blighted properties, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved a new community garden incentive program [earlier this year].

The incentive is expected to have the most significant effect in low-income neighborhoods, where there are often more blighted properties than businesses that sell fresh produce.

Expected to have the most significant effect in low-income neighborhoods, where there are often more blighted properties than businesses that sell fresh produce.

The program, which slashes property taxes on properties converted into community gardens, is possible thanks to a 2014 state law that aims to encourage urban farming and eating locally grown produce.

San Diego officials said they expect the incentive to increase the number of community gardens in San Diego beyond the roughly 30 now operating.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts said the county government is scheduled to approve a similar program this summer, extending the incentive to all local unincorporated communities.

No other local cities have taken advantage of the incentive, but Roberts said he hopes that changes. Santa Clara County and the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento adopted the incentives before San Diego.

Community gardens are places where residents with little or no land can come together to grow and harvest fruits and vegetables on individual plots. More and more of them are being created across the nation amid a new emphasis on eating food grown nearby.

Incentives will spruce up neglected properties, bring community members closer together and help teach young people the value of gardening.

Councilman Scott Sherman, an avid gardener who has spearheaded city efforts on the issue, said the incentives will spruce up neglected properties, bring community members closer together and help teach young people the value of gardening.

“It’s a common-sense solution,” he said. “It’s a good life lesson all the way along.”

Supervisor Roberts said the program could help people, especially youngsters, avoid obesity and diabetes…

Read the full story at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

Charleston Gazette-Mail: In Southern West Virginia, Using Mobile Tech to Attract Visitors

paintcreekwv.org

paintcreekwv.org

By Rick Steelhammer/Charleston Gazette-Mail

BECKLEY — A 44-mile-long scenic corridor sprinkled with historic points of interest as well as places to fish for trout, ride bikes, view wildlife and paddle kayaks weaves its way over, under and alongside the West Virginia Turnpike between Beckley and the Kanawha County river town of Pratt — although most Turnpike travelers are oblivious to it.

The Paint Creek Driving Tour uses a free downloadable mobile device app to give byway explorers access to 10 audio pieces with information.

To let more people know about the Paint Creek Scenic Byway and what it has to offer, the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association has created the Paint Creek Driving Tour, which uses a free downloadable mobile device app to give byway explorers access to 10 audio pieces with information on those who lived along the stream, from American Indian times through European settlement and farming to its coal mining boom and bust and present-day era of watershed restoration.

The mobile app, developed by i-Treks of Lewisburg, allows visitors to simply hit the Byway, starting from Tamarack, and as they approach points of interest, listen to site-appropriate audio stories automatically activated by arriving at preset GPS coordinates.

“Visitors now have the chance to learn about an area of Southern West Virginia as told by people who have lived there their whole lives.”  

After three years of researching, recording and editing, “visitors now have the chance to learn about an area of Southern West Virginia as told by people who have lived there their whole lives,” said project director Catherine Moore.

In addition to oral histories and historic sidebars, the audio tour features traditional Appalachian music. Additional information, plus a gallery of original photography, is available on the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association’s website, paintcreekwv.com, where the free app for the driving tour can also be found…

Read the full story at www.wvgazettemail.com

Follow the author on Twitter @rsteelhammer

In Grafton, a New Earth Day Tree-dition to Beautify the Local Landscape

Phil Kelley planting and Gavin Royce manning the wheelbarrow during Grafton's Earth Day planting.

Phil Kelley planting and Gavin Royce manning the wheelbarrow during Grafton’s Earth Day planting.

By Breanna Collins, AmeriCorps VISTA in Grafton

Michaela Flohr planting her first tree ever!

Michaela Flohr planting her first tree ever!

The cold and rainy weather didn’t stop All Aboard Grafton members and local volunteers, ranging from small children to more seasoned adults, from planting trees around Grafton, in honor of Earth Day last weekend.

The group planted trees in vacant lots behind Latrobe Street as well as the Maple Avenue Park and the city park below the Tygart Lake Dam.

This group was dedicated to helping the environment and passionate about volunteering their time to making Grafton a more beautiful place.

They planted a variety of trees: Yellow Poplars, Red Oaks, Sugar Maples, Black Walnut and Shagbark Hickory. And they all look forward to continuing this great local tradition.

To learn more about VISTA opportunities in communities across West Virginia, email The Hub’s VISTA Coordinator, Louise Henry, at l.henry@wvhub.org

Bluefield Daily Telegraph: In McDowell County, the Sprouts of Innovation and Determination

McKinney HydroBy Charles Boothe/Bluefield Daily Telegraph

KIMBALL — Passersby on U.S. 52 in Kimball in McDowell County often stare at some tall white towers beside the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank.

Sometimes they even stop to take a closer look.

Many are surprised to see plants poking their little heads from slits all around the towers.

But Joel McKinney, who sets up and maintains the towers, is always glad to talk about his work, which is called hydroponic growing.

This is a way to grow vegetables without soil, using water in this case, he said, and it has many advantages.

“I can grow 44 heads of lettuce on a tower rather than four on the ground using the same space.”

“The growing time is much shorter,” he said. “From the time I seed (a head of lettuce), it will be ready for harvest in about 35 days.”

Not only is the growing fast, it doesn’t take up as much space because the plants are going up instead of out, with dozens of plants on one tower.

“I can grow 44 heads of lettuce on a tower rather than four on the ground using the  same space,” he said. “I am actually a vendor for Mercer County schools. I am growing 220 heads of Romaine lettuce for them.”

He also has an indoor growing operation, using large trays under lights.

McKinney’s mother, Linda, who runs the food bank, said the hydroponic way of growing in trays is good for people who are disabled or can’t bend over for whatever reason.

“Gardening is hard work,” she said. “The digging, weeding and hoeing. This can be done without that kind of work, and done sitting down.”

It’s also a good way for students to learn, she said, and they have worked in a class at Kimball Elementary School, helping students use a tower to grow lettuce.

“They loved it,” she said. “We made lettuce kabobs. They grew it, they prepared it and they ate it.”

For Joel McKinney, the hydroponic operation has, in a way, been a labor of love. The goal is to incorporate the operation, called Grow McDowell, with the food bank in order to provide produce for the needy and teach others to grow.

It’s also a project that fits in with his current academic goal of getting a degree in agri-business…

Read the full story at www.bdtonline.com

WV Gazette-Mail: To Boost Tourism, West Virginia Providing Low-Interest Loans to Rafting Companies

Photo courtesy River Expeditions

Photo courtesy River Expeditions

By Andrew Brown/Charleston Gazette-Mail

The West Virginia Economic Development Authority accepted its first loan application from a whitewater rafting company since state lawmakers allowed the agency to approve public-assisted financing for the tourism-related businesses earlier this year.

On Thursday, the WVEDA, which helps finance select businesses in the state, preliminarily approved a $3.4 million low-interest loan for River Expeditions, a whitewater guide company in Fayette County.

SB 618 opened up the government-financing opportunities offered by the WVEDA to whitewater rafting operations in the state.

The application would allow the company to use the government-subsidized loan to lower the interest rate on existing debt and is expected to increase employment at the rafting business from 107 to 148 people over the next three years, according to agency documents.

River Expeditions is the first outdoor adventure company to take advantage of a new law — SB 618 — which opened up the government-financing opportunities offered by the WVEDA to whitewater rafting operations in the state.

If the loan application is approved, River Expeditions, which is owned by Rick and Heather Johnson, will benefit from the 20-year loan that carries an interest rate of 0.75 percent.

Expected to increase employment at the rafting business from 107 to 148 people over the next three years.

The proposed financing of a rafting company is a shift for the WVEDA, which often helps to finance manufacturing companies and other corporations that have large capital investments in equipment and material.

As an example of that type of work, the WVEDA board also approved the purchase of $2 million in new equipment for Touchstone Research Laboratory in Ohio County…

Read the full story at www.wvgazettemail.com

Follow the author on Twitter @Andy_Ed_Brown

WVPB: Huntington the Latest WV City to Launch Community News Website

hunt

Photo courtesy www.huntiful.com

By Clark Davis/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A group of Huntington residents are spearheading a local storytelling web site. It’s an idea that’s spreading all over the state.

Huntiful, that’s the name of a new site based in Huntington telling unique and positive stories about the Huntington area.

Jessica Pressman works for the federal government during the day and along with a group of others helps run and provide material for the new site. She said it’s about showing that there are other things going on in the town that aren’t related to being the unhealthiest or having some of the worst problems with drugs.

There are other things going on in the town that aren’t related to being the unhealthiest or having some of the worst problems with drugs.

“It’s basically a forum for us to tell our stories in our own voices,” Pressman said. “It’s just people who live here who have a passion about Huntington writing and telling their stories about their lives.”

The site is just the latest branch to grow from a state-wide, local story-telling endeavor that first sprouted in Wheeling.

In May there will be one more, SyNRGetic, which serves the New River Gorge region. Jason Koegler, along with others, started Weelunk.

“We don’t want to stop at the five number, we would like everywhere to have their own site, because we feel that the great thing about these sites and what’s proven successful is that we’re not sending someone from Charleston to somewhere else to do a story,” said Koegler. “We’re collecting the stories from the people, from the souls of the town’s themselves and they’re bubbling up if you will…”

Hear the full story at wvpublic.org

Public News Service: Conservation Fund Critical to West Virginia’s Tourism Future

Photo courtesy www.wvrivers.org

Photo courtesy www.wvrivers.org

By Dan Heyman/Public News Service

An important conservation fund, which had been threatened in Congress, is one step closer to permanent funding. For the first time, a dedicated money source for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has made it into legislation that passed the U.S. Senate.

Angie Rosser, executive director for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, is praising Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for voting to include the funding stream in an energy bill.

She says the LWCF has provided more than $200 million over the years to conserve and improve public access to some of the state’s special places.

“The New River, the Gauley River, Canaan Valley, Cacapon,” says Rosser. “It’s really an important way to create access to these lands, and identify with our image as wild and wonderful West Virginia.”

…increasingly important, as West Virginia looks to tourism to make up for some of the lost coal-mining jobs…

One House committee chair has pushed to have the LWCF money shifted to compensate counties where the federal government already owns land, saying he opposes more federal land purchases.

The House and Senate will have to settle differences on the energy bill. It’s a huge, complex piece of legislation, and Rosser says not everyone is going to agree with everything in it.

But she says LWCF grants have worked for 50 years to protect and improve everything from Civil War battlefields and federal wilderness areas to state parks and city pools.

Rosser says that’s going to be increasingly important, as West Virginia looks to tourism to make up for some of the lost coal-mining jobs…

Read the full story at www.publicnewsservice.org

 

Hub Expands Efforts to Grow New Economic Opportunities in Southern Coalfields

POWER-+-bannerAs someone from the region who has been gone for almost two years, I’m very excited to be back in Appalachia and to be able to do this amazing work.

There is a sense of community in West Virginia that you just don’t get elsewhere. A sense of openness and possibility as well, due to the strong community element. That is why I see so much potential, and so many new opportunities.

When communities get together and share their experience, their resources and their determination, so many things can happen and I look forward to being a part of facilitating these connections. The POWER + funding package to help coal-impacted communities create new economic opportunities has opened up a whole new world of potential and opportunities, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.

The POWER + funding package to help coal-impacted communities create new economic opportunities has opened up a whole new world of potential and opportunities.

The Hub’s Innovation Acceleration Strategy to help these communities identify their opportunities puts us right on the front lines of economic change in West Virginia. We are at a pivotal moment in history, and there is much at stake.

Before leaving West Virginia in 2014, I had worked for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) in Huntington, during which time I served as OVEC’s liaison to the Alliance for Appalachia’s Economic Transition team. The Alliance is a regional coalition of groups from numerous Appalachian states working on economic transition policy at the federal level around the POWER + plan, Abandon Mine Lands funding and Brownfields funding for communities.

I’m also a former board member of Create Huntington, a grassroots group in the city seeking to use the creativity of our people for economic revitalization work there, and a former VISTA at Marshall University for their Service Learning program, connecting nonprofit organizations and students for valuable service project to further the link between academics and community.

I have heard people say that to really do community based work you must pick a place and get to know that place if you are really to become part of the community and do the work right. This is what I hope to do once again in West Virginia.

There is a strong need here to make our economy more just, equitable and sustainable. I am a firm believer in community driven change…

There is a strong need here to make our economy more just, equitable and sustainable. I am a firm believer in community driven change and the power of organizing to help do this. We need to use the strength of community in the state to bring people together and make great things happen!

Having grown up in a town that has undergone significant economic change since the decline of large industry, I appreciate the need for communities to get out in front of accelerating economic opportunities when these big changes occur.

The involvement of citizens can be a game-changer when it comes to creating new opportunities and strengthening what is already there, and I look forward to helping make these connections happen across southern West Virginia.

Learn more about POWER + at www.wvhub.org/POWER

Hi, Dan!

Columbia Journalism Review: Kentucky’s Independent Media Shop Representing Real Appalachia

Photo by Appalshop

Photo by Appalshop

By Anna Clark/Columbia Journalism Review

As far back as Kelli Haywood can remember, Appalshop has been a part of her life.

The storied arts, media, and education center was founded in 1969 in her hometown of Whitesburg, a small county seat in the coalfield of eastern Kentucky. The first play Haywood ever performed in was led by Appalshop’s traveling theater troupe. The nonprofit brought traditional mountain musicians into her school classrooms. And when she was a teenager, she would hang around Appalshop’s black-box theater and its radio station, where many of her friends’ parents worked.

“I really felt [this region] is so misrepresented in the media. Even when a reporter means well, there’s often so many misunderstandings.”

Now, at age 37, Haywood herself is working in the distinctive slanted-wood building in downtown Whitesburg. She’s the public affairs director at WMMT/88.7 FM, Appalshop’s 15,000-watt noncommercial radio station, where Haywood and her colleagues are working to deepen the news programming, and broaden its reach.

“One of the reasons I really wanted this job is because I really felt [this region] is so misrepresented in the media,” says Haywood, who has been in the position for about eight months. “Even when a reporter means well, there’s often so many misunderstandings, so I’m really interested in us being able to tell our own stories, and have it hold the same sort of weight that others media sources have.”

This isn’t your ordinary public radio station. WMMT takes its tagline—“Real People, Real Radio”—seriously. The station, which doesn’t air any NPR programming, is largely powered by 50 volunteer DJs who play and say whatever they wish, barring a scarce few rules about what’s allowed on air.

Anybody can come in, go through training and a few supervised on-air segments, and get a regular time slot. The result is an unusually eclectic sound: community elders and 20-somethings, people who prefer to play bluegrass music and people who talk, and people who span the political and religious spectrums.

“The counties in the central Appalachian coalfield have always been somewhat isolated from each other because of geography… It helps to have media outlets look at things regionally.”

The one common thread is deep roots in the community.

“It serves to be a unifying influence for that region,” says Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. “The counties in the central Appalachian coalfield have always been somewhat isolated from each other because of geography—the mountains. It helps to have media outlets look at things regionally and tell people in eastern Kentucky, northeast Tennessee, southern Virginia, and southwest West Virginia that they have some things in common…”

Read the full story at www.cjr.org