Virginia shares tips for getting news coverage

Xpress Managing Editor Virginia Daffron, right, participated in the WNC Press Pass event on April 30 as part of Asheville’s Small Business Week. Along with panelists from Asheville Citizen Times (News Director Katie Wadington, left), WLOSBlue Ridge Public Radio andCarolina Public Press, Virginia provided insight into how businesses seeking media coverage can maximize their chances of success by understanding different media outlets’ missions and coverage guidelines.

As part of the Q&A format, some of Virginia’s remarks included:

  • Xpress‘ mission is to build community and strengthen democracy by serving an active, thoughtful readership at the local level. That’s because we believe local is where the impact of citizen action is greatest.
  • We report on news and issues affecting Asheville and the surrounding region and we chronicle the area’s arts and culture scene through our features and our Community Calendar.
  • For Xpress, the most newsworthy items or issues are those that encourage and empower our readers to get involved in the local community. And we are particularly interested in action and events that are emerging from the grassroots.
  • We want to reflect the diversity in our community, from gender, race, age, ability and interests to the full spectrum of political opinions. We gravitate toward topics and themes that allow us to consider issues in depth and from a variety of perspectives.
  • We emphasize coverage of trends and patterns as much as events and individuals. So we appreciate story ideas that can shed light on who we are, why we are the way we are, how we change, how civic decisions are made, etc.
  • As a weekly, we plan our issues far in advance, so we need to know about an idea or event at least a month out to have a good chance of considering it.
  • Because our mission is to empower readers to take action, we are more likely to provide preview coverage of an event than to send a reporter and write about it after the fact.
  • While we love a good human-interest story as much as anyone, we don’t often have space for those types of pieces.

What do you want and/or need in a press release? What tips would you have for those writing them?

  • The best press releases are those we can immediately identify as authentically local, of interest to our readers and in line with our coverage guidelines and mission. Explaining how the subject of the release is relevant and of general interest to the local community in the title and first paragraph is very helpful.
  • We prefer the text of releases to be in the body of an email. If you do attach documents, please at least indicate in the title of your email what the event or announcement is.
  • The less formatting in your text, the better, since we post many releases on our News Bulletins area of our website. Excessive formatting (things like different fonts, embedded tables and inline graphics) makes that harder for us to do.
  • When attaching photos, a reasonable file size is 1-2 MB per image. Very large files are hard for us to process, and very small ones don’t reproduce well.
  • Please include caption and photo credit information (also called cutlines) for all photos you send. Basically, we need to know the who, what, when and where of the people, places and things shown in submitted photos.

How do you prefer to build relationships with the surrounding community?

  • We try to remain open and responsive to the community through email, social media, telephone contact, reporters’ presence at local meetings and events, outreach through our sales team, moderating and responding to online comments, soliciting and publishing letters and opinion commentaries authored by community members, responding to feedback and more.
  • We use freelance contributors to strengthen our network throughout the community.
  • We encourage readers to submit letters to the editor and opinion commentaries, since both of these add more voices and promote active readership.
  • Like many others, our publication is supported by advertisers. While we appreciate our advertisers’ support and work hard to create the best product possible to help them reach more people, our coverage decisions aren’t based on advertising.
  • We’d like to do more, and we are open to suggestions about how the community would like us to build relationships with them.

How is the world of news changing and what should leaders be doing to adapt in order to stay relevant?

  • Hone your message so that you can clearly articulate your or your organization’s unique contribution and point of view.
  • Respond to media inquiries quickly and as completely as possible. This alone will go a long way toward making you a valued source.
  • Understand the pressures on community news providers: With many more sources of information, the resources available to community media have decreased, while the demand for accuracy, balance, inclusiveness and comprehensiveness has increased. It’s challenging to do more with less. You can help us create a new model that serves the community by engaging and collaborating with us.
  • Feel free to let us know when you think we’re wrong, but also support us and recognize the importance of the resource we provide the community.

In what ways is your organization engaging in social media and citizen journalism?

  • The publication and our staff are active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.
  • Since all our content is available for free and without a paywall, our articles are easy to access and share.
  • We encourage citizen journalism by posting press releases and announcements of community interest on our News Bulletins section, which is an increasingly popular resource on our website.
  • We offer community members opportunities to author opinion commentaries to share their perspectives.
  • We work with a variety of freelance contributors, who help us increase our reach and better reflect the diversity of perspectives in our community. You don’t have to have a professional journalism background to work with us!