Notes from May Meeting: Arts News Stories
- Mark Brown, Arts Correspondent, Guardian – email@example.com
- Robert Dex, Arts Correspondent, Evening Standard – Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hannah Furness, Arts Correspondent, Telegraphs – Hannah.email@example.com
- Rehema Figueiredo, Arts and Showbiz Reporter, Daily Mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Dex – Evening Standard
They are looking for a compelling story often written/featuring high achievers that commuters will be interested in.
Pitches must be exclusive. The Evening Standard comes out at 2.30pm each weekday afternoon so the story can’t have appeared anywhere else.
They like stories with accompanying pictures to make a good feature on the page.
Lead times – no such thing as too far ahead!
If you are unsure about a pitch do send an email to ask, it may of course be a no but Robert will always try to reply.
Evening book launches are good for the Standard as they can cover them for the next day’s paper so they welcome invites, guest lists, etc.
Hannah Furness – The Telegraph
Hannah is the Arts Correspondent for the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs. She works for the news pages, not the books pages but often covers books stories in the news pages at the front of the paper.
Non-fiction works best – history, biogs, something that tells the audience something new about a subject. Big name also works but has to be super high profile – Harper Lee announcement for example.
Trends also work well or unexpected high sellers.
The pitch must be compelling – phone or email works and Hannah will always try to answer. Always try to answer ‘what is the news story’ – and convincingly, that is the key thing. Make sure the story has a news hook and isn’t just a trade story. Know the pages within the Telegraph and their audience – know it will work for them.
Fantastic pictures or accompanying photos to form a great package with the story always help. Picture stories CAN work well as standalones, if they are unseen/previously unpublished images. This would work well for glossy, coffee-table-type books, and also biographies/autobiographies. Especially anything glamorous. E.g. these made a lovely story in the paper: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/05/13/exclusive-unseen-photographs-of-audrey-hepburn-and-elizabeth-tay/
Be prepared to talk the story through, Hannah has to cover a lot of areas within the arts so has to rely on the publicist to act as the expert when pitching. Do feel free to put Hannah in touch direct with the authors but this can take a long time to set up so it does work better if the PR can speak on behalf of the author. Know what your author will be able to speak about and what they will be willing to explore in an interview.
They don’t do lists, surveys, Top Tens. They don’t always cover books because they link into an anniversary, there still must be a new angle to the story.
Exclusive is always preferred but do flag if the story has appeared/is going to appear elsewhere.
They work a day ahead for the daily paper and have a deadline of Wednesday for the weekend pages.
Lighter news stories work better for the weekend, can be more serious during the week.
Mark Brown – The Guardian
Ditto the other notes on pitching, etc!
Make sure the story really is interesting to the general public. Some things that get pitched are too niche or just not that interesting. There is always room for persuasion though – make him think that someone else will definitely cover this story if he doesn’t. A news correspondent’s worst nightmare is someone else covering a story they turned down and it turning into a big story – unhappy editor!
Email is the best way to get in touch with Mark although phone pitches are welcome. Know the deadlines though and don’t pitch too late.
Mark goes to Hay looking for newsy stories from things authors say in events.
Rehema Figueiredo – Daily Mail
They love cookery books, biogs, autobiographies, celebrities.
Make your pitch compelling, keep it brief and don’t send it first thing in the morning. If you are phoning, nail your elevator pitch.
Press releases are useful but email summaries are more useful – in your own words.
Lead times – night before if possible otherwise first thing in the morning. Monday’s pages are always quieter so if you can pitch anything on a Sunday it has a good chance of getting in.
Love press conferences, launch parties, lunches, coffees, drinks for a heads up on upcoming authors and titles.
Children’s books can be covered and they often look for stories about the social issues of reading, etc
Books being adapted for TV and radio are always of interest.
They go to Hay, they look for newsy items around things authors have said in events. If they can get a chance with the author after the event that’s much appreciated.
Are ‘weeks’ or ‘days’ useful for hooks – for example, Mental Health Awareness week?
All – they can be but depends what it is. It’s still only interesting if there are matters of interest within the story and there’s something new to say. It’s not just a strong enough hook for something to ‘be’ in that week.
Do you cover book prizes?
Guardian – comprehensive coverage of book prizes as they have a dedicated books reporter.
Mail – books more suited to the books pages rather than the news and showbiz pages
Telegraph – they cover the big ones. To cover smaller ones there has to be something interesting or PRs clever in finding a theme. A comment from a judge is always useful. Address what the prize is saying about the wider world.
What makes a good photo-led story?
Telegraph – Attractive, appealing author pictures in a nice setting – no black and white, please, and no passport-style mug shots. Think about the pictures you’ve seen used in papers: very rarely are they just a snapshot of a person, but are laid out beautifully with an eye to the background/ setting.
Also beautiful books (e.g. they did a piece on The Fox and the Star). The story still tends to come first, photos are a back up. The ultimate is to make the page 3 (most read page of the paper) lead story. For a story to get a right hand lead it must have a good accompanying photo.
Do you have relationships with the books pages?
All – they don’t always filter down, send pieces and copies to both. Think of them as two separate departments. Do let the news pages know if a story has already gone to the books desk though. There isn’t competition between desks, send everything to everyone. If it is newsy though, it likely won’t wait for the books pages as these are weekly. Don’t cc in other arts correspondents when sending pitches as each will assume the other is picking the story up.
Do you honour embargoes?
They all honour embargoes.
Mail – the Mail Online is completely separate to the print paper. Anything exclusive must be exclusive to the paper first.
Guardian – please don’t embargo Monday stories on a Friday, there isn’t time to turn it around and it is really frustrating.
Telegraph – they have conference at 11.30am each morning so pitch super newsy stories before 10.30am. They story must be exclusive, not just a certain aspect of the story – they don’t want it to appear anywhere else in a different guise.
Evening Standard – their deadline is 10am each morning for that day’s paper which comes out at 2.30pm – preferably the previous day for the following day. For exclusives they like the embargo to be set at 2.30pm so they can definitely run first.