Religion reporter offers advice for getting coverage

By Katherine Kerr

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, a reporter for the Religion News Service, led a workshop on Inside Religion Reporting at the 2015 RCC convention. (Photo by George Conklin.)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 10) — In a workshop at the Religion Communicators Council’s annual convention, Adelle M. Banks, a reporter for the Religion News Service, offered specific tips for faith communicators seeking to get coverage from the wire service and religion reporters.

  • Know who the reporters are with the organization that covers your organization’s faith or focus of interest. She directed RCC members to the Religion News Service staff page to identify the appropriate reporter to contact.

  • Think about visuals and multimedia opportunities for a particular story.

  • Be accessible and responsive when you get a call from a reporter.

  • If you have a spokesperson who is well-spoken, provide a short video to promote that person’s ability to articulate your organization’s cause.

  • Pitch stories ahead of an event. RNS prefers to advance the story rather than run stories about events that have already happened.

  • Think trends: the media will latch onto a trend if something has happened in threes. For example, three unaffiliated conferences focusing on racial reconciliation were scheduled by different organizations and faith leaders in three different venues. The RNS asked the leaders of each conference to write about their efforts and the RNS wrote a broader context story about the events.

She discussed how some of the best stories are serendipitous. While going to cover a three-week revival at Constitution Hall in which she was handed a flier about a program called “Bus Stop to Eternity.” That led her to an engaging story about a group of people who visited nursing homes to evangelize to residents of the facilities at the ends of their lives. She talked about the very specific training, scripting and tallying the staff did to track those who were led to Christ. She rounded out the story with an interview of an ethics expert. The story generated 136 comments with people who applauded the effort and others who objected to the program.

Another project was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. She and colleagues identified a short list of people who had participated in the march and asked how their faith was shaped by the march. On the actual anniversary of the march she interviewed participants. As a result a package of written and videotaped interviews and still photos was compiled.

She talked about the opportunities presented by today’s technology that allows stories to be covered in different ways. An example was a series titled Five Faith Facts about individual presidential candidates which offers a concise assessment of candidates’ faith professions.

Banks recommended that communicators figure out how to connect with religion reporters, even a meeting for coffee, before a story happens so they can build relationships that are mutually beneficial.

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