Get Inside the Head of the News Reporter

Understand What Makes a Journalist Tick

by Rusty Cawley

The first rule of PR Rainmaking is to approach reporters as customers.

Find out what they want, then give it to them in a way that benefits you and your company. This requires us to learn how to think like a news reporter.

For this journey, there may be no better guidebook than James B. Stewart's "Follow the Story."

On first blush, this would appear to be nothing more than one more how-to book on how to write non-fiction articles for a mass audience.

But Stewart is the former editor of the Page One Features for the Wall Street Journal, perhaps the most influential feature columns in the United States. He is a Pulitzer winner and the best-selling author of the non-fiction books "Bloodsport," "Den of Thieves" and "Blind Eye."

His "Follow the Story" provides a treasure trove of insights into how reporter conceive of their stories, and how they then sell those stories to their editors.

"Even the best ideas need to be 'sold,'" Stewart writes, "in the sense that editors have to be interested and readers ultimately must be persuaded to read."

Since our aim is to develop stories that we can sell to reporters, who can then sell those stories to their editors, you can see how "Follow the Story" is invaluable for the PR Rainmaker.

Of particular interest is Chapter 3, "Proposals," in which Stewart reviews case histories of how he developed and sold his stories to his editors.

Among his major points:

Timeliness: "Good stories can encompass a much broader time horizon than most writers recognize. But readers and editors still want to know why they should want to read something now."

Exclusivity: "If you can deliver something of interest that no one else can, editors, and ultimately readers, will salivate in anticipation."

Universality: "Good stories touch on themes of human nature that may be far from their immediate subject matter. The likelihood that a story will have that kind of appeal should be made explicit."

Flacks rarely want to take the time and put forth the effort to understand the craft of the news reporter. But PR Rainmakers know that the key to media access is to learn how to think like the reporter.

"Follow the Story" will help you reach that level of understanding.

To learn more about this book, and for other opinions, visit:

Copyright 2003 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

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About the Author

Rusty Cawley is a 20-year veteran journalist who now coaches executives, entrepreneurs and professionals on using the news media to attract customers and to advance ideas. For your free copy of the new PDF e-book "PR Rainmaker," please visit

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