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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!

Fanning the flames of your communications

The Workshop is excited to announce the lineup for Making Media Connections 2012, our nonprofit communications conference that brings journalists and nonprofit leaders together to talk about news that matters. This year’s conference “Fanning the Flames of Your Communications” will take place on June 14. LinkedIn’s Bryan Breckenridge will keynote the conference and share information about how nonprofits can use the powerful social media tool to tell their stories.

The morning session will consist of half-day workshops on topics ranging from how to fire up your communications plan to kindling the power of social media to blogging around the digital bonfire. The afternoon breakouts will cover topics including how to write sizzling headlines and subject lines, meeting around the metro news camp fire and fueling the flames of mobiles apps. Panelists include Cate Cahan, WBEZ; David Schalliol, Gapers Block; Michael Hoffman, See3; Deidra White, Channel 2; Valerie Denney, Valerie Denney Communications; and more.

To see a complete list of workshops and sessions, visit the Making Media Connections website.

Register for the conference before April 30 to get a reduced rate! We hope to see you there.

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!


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.

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.

Advice from reporters on email pitches and interviews

Long-time WGN reporter Wes Bleed talks about the shifting media landscape

When you’re trying to get media attention, think like a reporter. Easier said than done? Well, here are a few tips from Chicago reporters about what not to do.

Last week, Chip Mitchell of Chicago Public Radio told our Professional Media Relations participants that if he sees certain words in an email subject line, the email automatically gets deleted. Words to avoid? ‘Anniversary,’ ‘awards,’ ‘benefits,’ ‘fundraisers,’ and ‘annual’ to name a few.

Why, you might ask yourself, do these words result in the big, fat delete button? They seem harmless, and as nonprofits, we often have benefits or annual events we want to promote. But, as I’ve been chanting to my nonprofit clients and friends for years, your annual report is not news! Your annual dinner is not news! Unless someone famous will be speaking or you’re releasing new information at your annual event or fundraiser, it’s probably not going to be of interest to a reporter. The event is likely very important to other audiences you want to reach–donors, volunteers, community members. But, the media is not one of those audiences.

The takeaway? Be thoughtful about what you pitch to reporters – make sure you have news – and make every word in your subject line count.

Once you’ve actually interested a reporter in your story, what should you avoid during subsequent phone calls and interviews? Former WGN radio reporter Wes Bleed, now at Mack Communications, writes about what you should and should not say to a reporter on the firm’s blog. There are some good tips here, including, “Avoid saying ‘no comment.’ It looks like you’ve got something to hide.”

One my old coworkers at Valerie Denney Communications used to say, “Only gangsters and corrupt politicians say no comment.”

To throw in my two cents, I always imagine reporters’ inboxes overflowing with emails, and based on what I’ve heard from busy reporters, it sounds like that’s not too far off the mark. Make your email stand out. If you don’t receive a response, follow up with a phone call! Once you have the reporter interested in doing your story, make sure your spokespeople are prepared for the interview.

Happy pitching everyone.

Calling all Workshop VIPs

At the Workshop, our fans and friends are important to us. To show our appreciation, we’re offering 2011 media guide subscribers 50% off our brand-spanking-new online media guide. If you need your VIP coupon code, call 312-369-6400 or email us at

If you haven’t heard that our classic media guide just went online this week, check it out. You can even try it for free.

A few of the online media guide perks include:

  • Weekly updates.
  • Searchable by contact name, outlet, distribution, beats and more.
  • Ability to create and save targeted, custom media lists.
  • Printable lists that can also be exported.

We’re really proud of this new tool. The Workshop staff spent a lot of hours, resources and energy putting the guide online. We hope you’ll consider subscribing. And let your friends know! It’s the most comprehensive Chicago media guide out there, and it’s considerably cheaper than the national media databases.

Guest essay: Thou shalt not plagiarize or invent quotes


As I mentioned last week,  I am publishing the guest essays from our recent report “Realizing Potential” about the long-term needs of the online news sector on the NP Communicator blog. This essay by’s Jessica Rosenberg is the second of three. Read the first one by online news expert Michele McLellan hereRead the full report here.

“Realizing Potential” Guest Essay: Thou Shalt Not Plagiarize or Invent Quotes

By Jessica Rosenberg,, Burr Ridge

I graduated from journalism school at a time when the prospect of a no-newspaper town seemed very real in Chicago.  We all know the story: The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times had filed for bankruptcy, neighborhood papers were folding, and layoffs in every sector of the economy happened daily.  The saving grace, for journalism at least, was the internet.  The ability to publish virtually for free and reach almost everyone almost everywhere made the internet an attractive home for journalism.

At the start of graduate school, teachers developed our basic reportorial skills and stressed the importance of telling the truth, always.  But toward the end of school, classes focused more on online publishing, blogs, video and social media than on the skills of the traditional newspaperman.  As the market and my class offerings changed, I realized in order to have a chance in this cruel market, I had to know a little bit of everything.  It was no longer enough to be a good writer and know how to conduct an effective interview—I had to do it all.

So I went the multimedia route.  By the time I earned my master’s degree, I could record and edit audio and video and write a knockout piece of journalism to upload to my personal blog.

Eventually, this set of skills brought me to Patch.  Patch is online hyperlocal news.  Select communities around the country have their own unique Patch websites.  A local editor who generates content specific to that community manages each site.

Throughout the day, a combination of news, opinion, video and photo is uploaded to the site.  I am the local editor for suburban Burr Ridge and, like other local editors, I am a team of one working from my home.  Patch is owned by AOL and each month they give me a freelance budget with which I am to hire reporters.

With all the out-of-work journalists, I thought finding reporters would be easy.   Boy, was I wrong.

Finding candidates with social media and blogging skills has been easy.  These days, they’re a dime a dozen.  Finding candidates with a few video and photo skills has been fairly easy, too. While these skills are valuable in themselves, they don’t necessarily make one a journalist.  The definition of what constitutes a journalist is in flux, but there are certain skills that are non-negotiable.  For example, it’s been difficult finding a candidate who can actually write well, interview and uphold some kind of journalistic integrity (like thou shalt not plagiarize or invent quotes) in addition to being a little web-savvy.

What’s even more surprising—and frightening—is that many of these applicants are young and some even have degrees in journalism.  When I learn a candidate’s reporting has been inaccurate or they prefer to do interviews via e-mail, I get scared for the future of journalism.

Has the demand for multimedia news taken away from the craft of writing and the importance of accuracy?  Do they not teach writing and ethics in j-school anymore?

I wish that in learning to be an all-purpose, multimedia journalist, aspiring reporters would also learn how to write beautifully (not text-speak, but write).  I wish the next generation of reporters would learn that an e-mail interview never takes the place of a phone call or a knock on a door.  I wish that teachers and mentors would incorporate the importance of being ethical into their lesson plan on editing digital video.

This recession has forced many people to return to basics.  I feel the same shift needs to happen in the journalism industry.  Online journalism is here to stay, and it is important to know the multimedia skills required to work in the industry.  However, it seems that the rush to adapt has undermined the essence of journalism.  I would love to see a revival in creative writing for journalists at the university and continuing education level, or an increase in workshops that focus on interviewing strategies and what it means to be ethical—because some people seem to have missed that lesson.  What’s more, I would love to fill the open positions I’m offering at Burr Ridge Patch with clever and trustworthy reporters.

Meet local reporters at Saturday’s Media Boot Camp

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Media Boot Camp is your chance to meet local reporters including Doug Schalliol, Gapers Block; Deborah Shelton, Chicago Tribune; Maudlyne Ihejirik, Chicago Sun-Times; and Linda Lutton, WBEZ.

This Saturday, October 16, is an opportunity to sharpen your communications skills at Media Boot Camp. This intensive one-day training led by media expert Thom Clark will help you craft a successful elevator pitch, develop a strategic communications plan, and successfully pitch a reporter with ease. If that doesn’t convince you, maybe the lunch time panel with reporters will. Or the fact that your breakfast and lunch are included.

Take advantage of this weekend workshop! The details are below. Feel free to give us a call if you have questions 312-369-6400. There are only a few spots left. We hope you’ll join us.

Here is what folks are saying about the training:

The practical, analytical exercise on elevator pitches was incredibly valuable, as well as the information about creating a message and determining an audience. The bit about re-framing your usual narratives because an audience will always hear things based on what they already know was a real a-ha moment for me.

–  Cara Picket, Special Programs Director, Chicago Cultural Alliance

Event Details:

Media Boot Camp, Saturday, Oct 16, 2010, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, 218 S. Wabash, Room 716. Don’t miss out on this training REGISTER TODAY online or at 312-369-6400!


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