Someone in the news business once said: “There’s no such thing as a bad news story, only bad reporters.” But I’m here to tell you it’s a lie. There are plenty of bad news stories. When I was a reporter, people tried to pitch them to us every day.

So what is “news”? Well, it’s hard to sum up in one sentence. Even veteran journalists have trouble defining the word news. But any rookie reporter knows a great story when he sees one.

In order to get covered on the news, first you make sure that what you’re trying to pitch is actually a good story. Great stories have one or more of the following qualities:
1. They are timely.
2. The stories impact people/the station’s viewers.
3. They’re unusual and/or often controversial

In short, news is just about anything that will hold someone’s interest. If what you’re trying to get covered doesn’t fall into one or all of these categories, you need to think of a way to make it so.

Before pitching your story to anyone, you should ask yourself these questions:

Is my story timely?

If whatever you’re trying to bring attention to is years in the future, or happened a long time ago, the reporter might give you an automatic veto. The news is primarily the outlet of the NOW, so it is often best to wait to pitch your story at a time that would make the most sense for people to care about it.

Does my story affect the station’s viewers?

You need to make sure that you’re pitching the right outlet. If you’re trying to bring attention to your story, it’s important to objectively look at your story and ask yourself if it’s actually relevant to the people reading, listening, or watching.

Is my story unique?

Most stories should easily pass the first two tests, but although this is the most difficult one, it is also probably the most important. What makes your story different from everything else happening that no one else cares about? Just because a new pizza place is opening up in town doesn’t necessarily make it news, since that happens all the time. However a new pizza place that is celebrating its opening with an attempt to break the record for most pizza slices eaten in an hour could be.