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Can you reach millions with metro news?

With the rise of online news, traditional news has taken a huge hit in audience and circulation numbers in recent years, but in a major media market like Chicago, it is still the place where, yes, millions of people go for information. Just take a look at these numbers:

Chicago Tribune – 414,590 average daily circulation (includes print and digital)

Chicago Sun-Times – 269,489 average daily circulation (print and digital)

Daily Herald – 99,670 average daily circulation (print and digital)

WBEZ radio – and average of 118,000 listeners per day

There are nearly 3.5 million Chicago households watching television, according to nielsen. (If someone can find me breakdowns for local TV news audiences, please, send those numbers my way!)

And the Workshop’s NEW News 2010 report found that millions of people visit the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times websites each month.

These are still BIG numbers. These numbers are why so many organizations still desperately want that Tribune story or Channel 2 feature. The Workshop knows that while telling our own stories online is vital to the success of our organizations, continuing to mine opportunities to tell a newsworthy story to a larger audience via traditional media is also important. Make your journey through traditional media easier by meeting some of the reporters and producers who can help you place your stories. One of our most popular and well-attended panels each year at the nonprofit communications conference Making Media Connections is the Metro News panel. Join us this year to hear from Cate Cahan, WBEZ; Madeleine Doubek, Daily Herald; David Schalliol, Gapers Block; and Deidra White, CBS-2.

Hear from the reporters and editors themselves about the types of stories they’re looking for, when to pitch them, and how they prefer to be contacted. Chicago is a big media market, and pitching traditional media can be tricky. This panel will give you useful tips that might make the difference between a successful pitch and one that flops. We hope to see you at Making Media Connections 2012!

Prostitution, undocumented youth, living with a disability: Reporting the issues that matter

The Local Reporting Initiative was launched in the Spring of 2011 to report stories about Chicago’s South and West Sides that aren’t often told. With support from The Chicago Community Trust, the Community Media Workshop has been overseeing the project, and we’ve been blown away by some of the stories produced under the Initiative. These are stories about real people, stories that deserve to be heard.

Take Nina, the first woman to go through a new program to help women facing prostitution charges in Cook County.

Or Aurora, an undocumented youth who works two jobs and desperately wants to go back to school.

There’s Justin, the teenage kid of a hardworking single mom who tries to find his way in Auburn Gresham.

And Linda, a woman with polio who is a Domestic Violence Coordinator and was once a victim of domestic violence herself.

These are real people living in our city, and these are just a few of the amazing stories told through the Local Reporting Initiative.

Why aren’t their stories told more often? Why don’t we see these issues covered on TV or in the daily newspapers? Tell us what you think.

If you’d like to read more, check out the Local Reporting blog.

Workshop helps employment center step up work with local media

A 2011 story by Barrington Patch about CareerPlace

At a time of record unemployment in Illinois and the country, organizations that can help people find employment and build their skills are more important then ever. Yet, CareerPlace, located in Barrington, found that more than 40% of people in their area didn’t know about their services and classes for unemployed individuals.

“We struggled with finding the time to reach out to the local media,” said Monica Keane, executive director of CareerPlace. “I thought Professional Media Relations would be a good way to learn how to get information to the public.”

After attending the Community Media Workshop’s Professional Media Relations course in early 2011, Keane said she realized that when working with the media, everything is about a story.

“I learned to stop telling the business of the agency and to tell the story of the people who are touched by what we do,” said Keane.

Since the Workshop course, CareerPlace has received more media coverage in community press (check out the Patch story here) and started developing relationships with local reporters. Keane says she can now pick up the phone and call certain reporters with possible story ideas. She’s also used the Workshop’s online press release generator and Chicago area media guide to aid in her media outreach work.

“I’m just really impressed with the Workshop,” said Keane. “The willingness of staff to roll up their sleeves and get involved with the nonprofits they serve is so important.”

Keane enjoyed her time at the Workshop so much that she decided to hire Workshop staff for a custom consulting project—development of a train-the-trainer curriculum “Using Social Media to Search, Network and Find Your Next Job” to give CareerPlace trainers tools to help job seekers use social media in their employment searches. The project was supported with a grant from the Barrington Area Community Foundation.

The Workshop team continues to work with CareerPlace to ensure successful social media trainings for its participants in the coming year.

The Workshop’s 2012 Professional Media Relations course starts Jan. 20. There are still spots available. Register today and start making your own local media connections!



Develop a media story for your organization and pitch reporters, face-to-face

RoiAnn Phillips of HealthConnect One

RoiAnn Phillips decided to attend Professional Media Relations because she wanted a better grasp of media strategy and outreach as she took on more communications work at HealthConnect One.

Her “ah-ha moment” came when instructors told the class how to tailor a pitch to pique reporters’ interest, but her big breakthrough came a couple of weeks later. During the five-part workshop, she was able to pitch her organization’s upcoming report analyzing breastfeeding rates in Illinois to WBEZ Reporter Chip Mitchell. That opportunity resulted in three stories (below) in the coming months about the report and HealthConnect One. One hospital even decided to step up its breastfeeding efforts after hearing one of Mitchell’s stories on WBEZ.

“The WBEZ stories wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken Professional Media Relations,” said Phillips. “Without the class, I wouldn’t have understood how to frame a pitch and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be in the room with reporters.”


Check out the WBEZ stories that resulted from RoiAnn’s time at Professional Media Relations and follow-up work with reporter Chip Mitchell.

Report: Breastfeeding in Illinois hinges partly on race, income – April 26, 2011

Hospital regulators let formula vie with breast milk – May 5, 2011

After WBEZ report, hospital steps up breastfeeding efforts – August 2, 2011

Professional Media Relations
$395 for the five-part media workshop
Starts Jan. 20, 2012
Includes numerous handouts, worksheets & a copy of the 2012 Getting On Air, Online & Into Print media guide ($125 annual subscription value).
Reserve your spot today.

Visit our website or call 312-369-6400.

All the media tools you need to tell your story – for free!

In addition to communications trainings and one-on-one consulting, the Community Media Workshop also provides a wide range of free resources to help you get your organization’s story to the right reporter. Here are just a few of the many media outreach tools and tips you can find on our website.

Press release generator. Interested in creating a press release about your issue or campaign? Check out our press release generator to help you get started.

Media Event Quick Contact List. Looking for the most up-to-date quick contact list of assignment desks and editors at Chicago’s major media outlets? Download the 2012 Media Event Quick Contact List.

Community Calendars. If you have an event coming up that you want listed in Chicago media calendars, check out this resource to see a comprehensive list of calendars and links where you can submit your information.

Submit to Newstips. Newstips is the Workshop’s blog that distributes news tip information, submitted by hundreds of nonprofits across Chicago, to more than 500 journalists. Email Newstips Editor Curtis Black at with your story ideas.

Tip sheets, worksheets and up-to-date information about the shifting media landscape. We’re constantly publishing new tips and tools for nonprofit communicators such as how to set up your organization’s Google+ page or tips for building and maintaining your media list. Subscribe to our bi-weekly electronic newsletter or visit the NP Communicator blog weekly to see what’s new.

And don’t forget about Chicago’s most comprehensive media guide, Getting On Air, Online & Into Print. If you want contact information for thousands of Chicago-area and Midwest media outlets and reporters, subscribe to our 2012 media guide. Now in print and online.

If you’re interested in registering for scheduled trainings, visit our training page to check out what’s coming up. At the beginning of 2012 we’ll be offering Professional Media Relations, a five-part course that culminates with nonprofits pitching their stories to reporters face-to-face. For the first time ever, we’re also offering an intensive Social Media Bootcamp where attendees will walk away with an online communications strategy and social media policy for their organizations.

If you prefer a custom training for your organization or one-on-one consulting, contact me at or 773/510-4819. You can read more about two of the organizations we’ve recently provided one-one-one communications assistance to–Investing In Communities and LISC’s Smart Communities Program–at the NP Communicator blog.

Let us know if there are other resources you’d like to see on our website or training topics you hope we cover in the future. We want to hear from you!


News opportunities A-Z

After doing public relations for nearly 10 years, I can tell you that I almost always advise clients to do media announcements on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Why? Because, many PR professionals will tell you, those are “good news days.” The news rooms are staffed up, the newspapers have strong readership in the middle of the week, and you avoid the dreaded Saturday edition (usually the smallest paper of the week). But, there are exceptions to any rule, and the more the media landscape has shifted and news has become 24/7, the more likely I am to say, “There are exceptions to all the rules!

For example, weekend news may be a great place for your story because of something that’s actually happening on a Friday or Saturday. Or, it could be that you’re worried about competing with all of the city news that happens on a Tuesday, which makes Friday a great day for an event. Sometimes weekend producers and editors are looking for issues to cover because they do receive fewer press releases and pitches than weekday reporters.

And don’t forget the editorial pages! The editorial page and the page opposite the editorials (hence the name “op-ed”) are historically some of the most read pages in the paper. As you think about what your angle might be to get into the metro pages, you should also consider whether you have a solid pitch to the editorial board or if you can comment on something that’s already happening in the news through a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed.

And what about the talk shows on news radio? Or the morning shows on local television news? These provide different opportunities to tell your story. Have a lighter story about dentists dressing up for Halloween to provide dental service to low-income kids – pitch it to the morning shows. Or, do you have three experts with different perspectives on the foreclosure crisis just as new housing numbers are coming out? Pitch it to a policy oriented show like Eight Forty Eight on Chicago Public Radio.

Despite shrinking news rooms, there are still so many places to think about pitching your story. Be strategic and thoughtful about who to pitch, and you might have more opportunities than you think.

If you’re interested in learning more about any of these news outlets, sections or shows, join us at our annual Making Media Connections conference. We’ll be joined by reporters from Chicago’s weekend news, editorial boards, youth media, online media and more.

Help! I need a Tribune story!

Despite the rise of online news sites and social media tools, organizations still need and want traditional media coverage. And in Chicago, a nice story in the Chicago Tribune or the Sun-Times or on Chicago Public Radio can do wonders for an organization’s brand and the program or policy they’re working on.

Traditional media coverage still plays an important role in an organization’s communications strategy . These daily newspapers, radio stations and television news programs reach millions of people. They’re credible sources that can expose your work to key constituencies and decision makers, including city officials, legislators and community leaders.

Come hear from a few of these leading Chicago news outlets at our Making Media Connections panel “Meet Chicago’s Metro News.” An ever-popular panel moderated by Valerie Denney (my former boss and one of the best nonprofit communications experts out there), this year’s panelists include Patrick Curry of WGN-News, Angela Rozas or the Chicago Tribune, Scott Fornek of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Shawn Allee of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio.

You’ll get insights on issues ranging from shrinking newsrooms to daily deadlines to the types of stories they’re interested in. We hope to see you there!

Register for pre-conference workshops or the full-day conference on our website.

Let freelancers tell your story

Chicago’s freelance journalists are talented, hard working and widely published. As experienced journalists who know how to frame and tell your story, they can be your passports to reaching new and desirable audiences.

Among Chicago freelancers, you will find a world  of expertise on subjects such as housing, immigration, race, LGBT issues, civil rights, women’s issues, health, religion, community organizing—even the most arcane of local lore. Many freelancers are former reporters and editors who have worked at Chicago’s most respected publications and at an impressive array of independent media outlets. These writers, editors and photojournalists have long, established relationships with local and national editors and producers, allowing them the ability to pitch stories that can command the attention of select readers with specific interests.

While some freelance journalists are specialists, others are generalists who take on assignments across a range of subject areas. And though most get hired to report and write, others provide another valuable and essential service: editing. Freelance editors help non-writers by bringing clarity and style to their prose.

Experienced freelancers are more then savvy, knowledgeable wordsmiths. They understand the editorial workings and needs of different media franchises, knowing how to craft pitches that appeal to  and meet  the requirements of editors and producers. Because freelancers often work “free” of the philosophical directives of a particular publisher, they have more latitude in taking on topics that might otherwise be rejected by some editors and producers who must follow a certain mandate from management.

The freelancer’s role in promoting news that matters should be embraced. Their ability to craft sharp, insightful stories offers one more way to connect readers with information they can use.

Have you found success telling your story by working with freelance writers? Let us know what your experience was or share us some of your tips.

If you interested about finding out how to find freelance journalists or would like to engage with some about how to tell your story, register for our upcoming Making Media Connections Conference this coming June 8th and 9th. Make sure you check out the panel discussion “Pitching Freelance Journalists” on Thursday, lead by 2011 Terkel Awardee and freelance journalists Kari Lydersen!

Register for Making Media Connections, win an online media guide

Here’s your chance to win a free subscription to our new online media guide! Anyone who registers for the 2011 Making Media Connections conference by noon on Friday, April 22, will be entered in a raffle for a one-year online media guide subscription.

This is a win-win. You’ll receive the early bird discount AND a chance to win an online media guide, regularly $495 for an annual subscription.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO? Just register for the 2011 Making Media Connections Conference this week
BY WHEN? Noon, Friday, April 22 (One week from today!)
AND I COULD WIN WHAT? A one-year subscription to our new online media guide
QUESTIONS? Call 312-369-6400 or email
Did we mention who will be at the conference? Deidra White, CBS 2; Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune; Charles Festa, Threadless; Tom McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times; Bruce Dold, Chicago Tribune; Lynette Kalsnes, WBEZ; Martha Carlos, Red Cross Chicago; Robyn Ziegler, Illinois Attorney General’s office; Charlie Meyerson, WGN; and many many more journalists, nonprofit leaders and communications experts.

Read more at the conference website!

And did we mention why is a must-have tool? Updated weekly, this is the best and most comprehensive media database of Chicagoland reporters. The online guide allows you to search for reporters and outlets, save and export custom media lists, and target your communications strategy.

Local reporting on Chicago’s South and West Sides gets a boost

There are a lot of untold stories about Chicago neighborhoods, especially the city’s low-income communities. But 2011 could be the year where we actually get to hear stories about the impact of federal health care reform on West and South Side residents or the plight of black men in this recession. On Monday, The Chicago Community Trust, in partnership with the Community Media Workshop and The Chicago Reporter, announced $110,000 for local reporting on issues impacting South and West Side neighborhoods.

A deeper look at youth violence, the Pilsen community’s economy, cyber-bullying among low-income youth of color, local Latinas working in the arts–these are the types of stories that received funding, and they’re the types of issues I personally look forward to hearing more about. Award winners include individuals, nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies with expertise in either journalism or Chicago’s community issues. The 31 winners were chosen from among 108 proposals.

The Workshop and The Chicago Reporter are helping the Trust administer the Local Reporting Awards, part of the Trust’s Community News Matters program, which seeks to increase the flow of truthful, accurate and insightful local news and information and help the region’s cutting edge innovators develop new models for providing news and information. It is funded by The Chicago Community Trust, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the McCormick Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.


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