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December 2009

Vol 7, No 12
December 2009


· Follow that Story!

· FEMA things for club websites

· Getting stories on TV

· The Last Word

Follow that story!

Two links with stories on amateur radio participation with local law enforcement for Halloween patrols. Note the ARES/RACES exercise in Wisconsin Rapids/Wood County, to be held in conjunction with our state conference, drew a negative comment from a reader. We quickly learned to watch the blogs associated with online news articles as we had to offset a negative comment with positives.

Gary Sorensen - W9ULK

ASEC - Wisconsin Section – Training

That’s one of the problems with blogs and anonymous comment sites. “It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Staying with a story and having people ready and able to post if needed is a VERY good idea. The sad part is I will give you an 80% probability that you may actually know the person who posted the nasty comment. Often it ends up being a ham. Otherwise, it’s a nice hit!

(Later on, information came that it indeed was almost certainly a ham who intentionally belittled the efforts of others.)

A similar incident happened to the work of two hams trying to work with middle school students. Chuck Perushek, N8ZA, and Ray Anderson, K8RDJ, both amateur ham operators and members of USECA, came to Armada Middle School to show a group of seventh-graders the opportunities of ham radios in today's society and what they can learn with them. They received a nice write-up by the local paper for their efforts. But then came the comments – and again it was a ham that tried to ruin any positive PR value in their work.

Middle school looks to start ham radio club
New Baltimore Voice Newspapers

So what does this mean for PIOs and others? Keep an eye on those stories! Just because you made the media does not mean your job is over, especially if there is an option for comments. The worst are the sites that allow anonymous comments.

Stay respectful, factual and never get personal, but don’t let the blogger-floggers get away clean after ruining your work. Remember that there is a good possibility that he/she is a disgruntled ham holding some past personal grudge that has nothing to do with you. At the same time, we put in a lot of time, effort and energy presenting Amateur Radio to the public, and it only takes a few mean-spirited comments left unanswered to ruin a lot of good work.

But there’s also a good side! I am aware of several situations in which comments were written by people looking to get in touch with local groups and learn more about getting licensed. They wrote to the websites because they didn’t know where else to go. So keep track of those stories and be ready for this option too. Remember, our main job is to make friends for Amateur Radio.


FEMA things for your club website

Marty Falk, KI4IQZ, spotted this one… The following is a list of – based and social media sites that FEMA uses to engage the public. Read the fact sheet on our use of New Media.

Web 2.0 Resources on

RSS Feeds - FEMA currently offers national-level RSS feeds that provide subscribers with automated updated information. Apart from press release and disaster declaration information, subscribers can receive notifications on the issuance of new situation reports and photographs added to the official FEMA Photo Library.

Widgets - Widgets provide data feeds through transportable well-defined web-based graphical interfaces. This is akin to a "box score" anyone can put on a website they use that is fed data from sources we define.

Media Library -The Multimedia site provides contributor an end-user interaction on a .gov platform. This site currently hosts videos, podcasts, photos and text-based documents that are presented in collections related to disasters and subject matter. It permits web 2.0 functions such as embed coding and sharing Social Media Tools and Sites


Looking back as I work on the new ARRL website, I spotted this and it is still very appropriate!

Getting Stories On Local TV News
By: Andy Funk, KB7UV
Assistant News Operations Manager
FOX5 Atlanta, WAGA-TV

How Newsrooms Choose Stories

There seem to be only two "speeds" in local television newsrooms--too slow and too fast.

On slow news days we're looking for stories which won't drive viewers to push the button on their remotes. But when there's breaking news everything speeds up and almost everyone drops anything else they're working on and concentrates on the big story at hand. Keep this in mind if you call. Ask if they're busy with breaking news or on deadline, and if the answer is yes simply say you'll call back at a better time and hang-up. Believe me, this will be appreciated!

It helps to have an idea of how newsrooms operate so you can get your information to the right people. The most visible people are the reporters you see on the air each day. You might think that speaking to a reporter is the best way to get your story covered, but that's rarely the case. Story decisions are usually made by managers, producers and assignment editors, beginning with an early morning conference call and, after everyone arrives in the newsroom, the morning meeting.

These story decisions don't come off the top of the meeting participant’s heads. And no, they don't all come from the pages of the local newspaper. Some originate with "wire" stories from the Associated Press, others from ideas generated by members of the news department staff, and others come from press releases received by the news department over the preceding days and weeks.

Press Releases

A typical big-city newsroom will receive literally hundreds of press releases each day. Some come by mail, some by fax, and others by email. But watch out for email--just because they have an email address doesn't mean anyone will actually look at the messages in a timely fashion! So, for now, stick with regular postal mail and fax.

Yes, I did write that they receive hundreds each day. How are they handled? Well, often an intern or entry-level newsroom employee is assigned to go through the stack and file them. Some are placed in daily planning folders, based upon the date of the event being promoted. Others are simply tossed into the so-called "circular file" (trash).

So, if you send out a press release there are two essentials: making sure it makes it into the daily folder instead of the trash, and having it stand-out among its "competitors" in the daily folder so it will actually be read by someone in authority.

But there is another way to ensure your release is read by an appropriate person: develop a relationship with a planning editor or assignment editor so they will be predisposed to read anything you send.

How? Well, the best way I know is to find something the planning or assignment editor needs, and meet that need. And, believe it or not, this can be real easy for people involved with Amateur Radio.

Meet The Assignment Editor's Needs

Remember when I mentioned breaking news? Often this is a story about an emergency somewhere, like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake. Who are usually involved in providing communications during these emergencies? Ham radio operators. Who are the assignment editors looking for? Ham radio operators who can speak intelligently about what is going on.

And one of the buzzwords for television news these days is "local." Assignment editors are always looking for local angles on big stories which are mainly taking place elsewhere. There's a coup in Pakistan? Find a local DXer who has just spoken with someone there. Something happened to a satellite? Find a local who's active with Amateur Satellites. But assignment editors can't do this unless they either know these people themselves or have a good contact in the Amateur Radio community.

Be that good contact!

Put together a list of hams you know who are experts in various facets of Amateur Radio. Find people who are available at different times of the day. Ask around. Talk to radio club committee chair people. Write a recruitment article searching for experts and ask area clubs to print it in their newsletter. (Also ask for hams who work in the local media. Those you find may provide direct introductions to the appropriate people at radio and television stations and newspapers!) Then take the time to meet them, view their shacks, and talk for a little while. You might find that some of the people you've found are perfect for television, while others might be better suited for radio or newspaper interviews. (Remember that you're trying to get good publicity for Amateur Radio. While it's not "fair," how people look and speak has tremendous impact upon how their message is received.)

Once you have you list(s), put together a press kit on Amateur Radio. Begin with material from the ARRL, and add information on local clubs, your expert list, and 24-hour contact information for you and any other PIOs you are working with.

And if you don't have a pager, seriously consider getting and carrying one. Put yourself in the position of a harried assignment editor. The news director is yelling, "Find me a local angle on this story!" If you had someone you knew who would return a page quickly and probably be able to provide that local angle, what number would you dial first?

Now that your press kit is ready, call the newsroom at a time when they're least likely to be busy. First ask if they're busy with breaking news or on deadline, and if not ask to speak with the assignment editor. Introduce yourself, and explain what you have to offer. Ask if you can take the assignment editor lunch in the coming week. If not, try to make an appointment to stop by for a short visit. If you can't make an appointment, stop by anyway to drop off your press kit. (And bring some food--candy, pastry, or similar. News people love free food!)

Be Proactive

Keep abreast of what's in the news, always looking for Amateur Radio angles. When you find one, first line up a good interview subject from your expert list. Don't proceed until you're sure the person is available and prepared! Then call the newsroom to pitch the story. The first words out of your mouth when you reach someone in the newsroom shooed be something like, "I have a local angle on the Taiwan earthquake." Make sure they know that talking to you will be to their advantage.

They may not immediately jump at your story. Don't despair! They're probably extremely busy working on the primary story, arranging to get custom live shots from the network or a sister station, juggling satellite feeds, or otherwise frantic. The story isn't going away. Right then they have more material than they can use, but later that day, or the next day, when things calm down, remember the News Director will be yelling, "Find me a local angle on this story!"

Newsrooms Are Each Unique

This is based mainly upon my experience with FOX5 Atlanta, WAGA-TV. Atlanta is a large city, the 10th largest television market in the United States. While I believe what I've written here should be effective throughout North America, each city is different and each newsroom has its own unique culture. Consider what I've written here as a basic, beginning guideline.

Those of you reading this who are also media professionals, please consider writing a short addendum on which of this would not work at your station and why, and suggest alternative approaches from your experience.


The Last Word

Looking ahead to 2010

If CONTACT! seems a little shorter this month – you’re correct. The staff at ARRL has been furiously working on getting the new ARRL website ready for a test run. Media & PR, along with every other department, have been editing, updating, writing and moving thousands of pages into the new format. Look for a full test probably late in January.

The ARRL’s website is internationally known as a primary source of accurate information and the place to go for all things Amateur Radio related. It is important we get it right! I think you will be well pleased when we get it all together. Among the many things for PIOs is the movement of the Swiss Army Knife onto the website, more public service announcements and videos, access to PowerPoint presentations, media hits listings and even an audio blog.

Another thing to look for is the updating of the PIC and PIO job descriptions by the Public Relations Committee. Media is changing and so are the activities of the PIOs and PICs. It’s time to update the paperwork to match these new opportunities.

There will be a special presentation package for outreach to school administrators and work on standardizing our appearance to the public for better recognition. There are also several national level events planned involving television opportunities.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season and/or “Merry Christmas!” While we may not know about the politics or economy, for PR it looks like 2010 will be another GOOD year.


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