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Aug 15, 2003
Interview

How to Get Your Business Covered in the Detroit Free Press

SUMMARY: Although Mike Sante Business Editor of the Press is an old-fashioned curmudgeon, he graciously unbent for our exclusive
interview. The names and contact info for a whole slew of press business reporters are included. Go for it.
Mike Sante
Business editor
Detroit Free Press
600 W. Fort
Detroit, MI 48226
313-222-6400
sante@freepress.com

-> Reach

340,000 daily

-> Sante's background

You can almost hear Sante snapping his fingers impatiently. He wants to get right to the topic, so when we ask for his background, he says, "Is that really relevant?"

We did manage to learn that he was an editor at the Charlotte Observer and the Miami Herald, among others, before he came to the Press. He began there as auto editor, and became business editor 5 years ago.

He is a busy man with a lot of demands on his time; still, once you get him going, he is a talker. What did he have to say? Think long and hard before spending time pitching a story to the Press.

-> Current editorial coverage

The Press's business pages are driven by Michigan news, big business, and the auto industry. For example, 2 current big stories are hostile takeovers: Simon's bid for Taubman and ArvinMeritor's bid for Dana Corporation.

They rarely do feature stories. They do not do book reviews. They do not do small business, and they do not do trends.

News, news, news is the name of the game for both the paper and Freep (the paper's online edition). The site includes almost everything from the paper plus daily news updates. (See the business pages at http://www.freep.com/index/business.htm.)

-> What he looks for in a story pitch

Do you love a good challenge? You will have to if you are going to pitch Sante and his staff.

"I bet I get a dozen ideas a day for stories that just are not even close to going to happen. They're not even bad ideas," he says. It is simply a matter of resources and priorities. With only a small number of reporters, 5 of them dedicated to the auto industry and 2 out on maternity leave, he finds it difficult to cover all the news.

"Michigan has Dow Chemical and Kellogg and Whirlpool, lots of big household names," he says. "Most of them think *they* get ignored."

Should you just give up hope of getting coverage in the Press? Nope. Instead, focus on pitching yourself or your client as an informed source within an industry rather than pitching a particular story.

"They're always looking for new people," he says of his reporters. "We have experts all over the country who are happy to talk about things."

Here is how:
1. Think hard before you contact them. For example, you might have an expert on your roster with an interesting survey on the workplace.

"But we aren't writing work-life stories right now," Sante says. "We had to give up that beat to cover something more important. Maybe in a year or two we might go back to it. It's always, 'give up this to do that.'"

2. Contact the reporter who covers the industry you are interested in.

3. Explain your area of expertise and describe your credentials.

4. Keep up with your particular reporter's beat. When big news happens, let them know you are available to offer insights.

5. Give it a try, especially if you have got someone who can talk about steel industry problems, the retail industry (particularly discount store industry), Kmart bankruptcy, pharmaceuticals, airlines, occasionally banking, among others.

-> The best way to pitch Sante and his staff

Email his reporters directly. Addresses are reporter's lastname@freepress.com Here is the beat list:

Jeff McCracken, Jamie Butters, Jocelyn Parker, Sara Webster, Mark Phelan/auto industry
Jeff Bennett/technology
Jennifer Dixon/general assignments
John Gallagher/development and architecture
Kim Norris/healthcare
Susan Tompor/personal finance
Tom Walsh/general business
Rajiv Vyas/aviation

Once you send your email, do not call and ask if they got it. "There are a number of people who call and ask that, and I just can't," Sante says. "I get 200 faxed pitches a day and not quite that many emails. Please don't."

Here are a couple of sample pitches that did not work, and why:

1. A company that wants him to write about new automotive technology. "I'll tell him thanks a bunch but right now our writer is totally taken up with UAW talks," says Sante.

2. A pitch from a company in the RV industry. "It's a perfectly good pitch. Do I have someone to put on RVs? No. But it's a good pitch." Champion Enterprises, the biggest mobile home maker in world, is based in Michigan, he explains. "We're much more interested in that than RVs."

-> Deadlines

Another great way to get coverage in the Press is to give them a scoop. Their deadline for the first edition is 6:15 daily

-> Submitting pre-written contributions

No.

-> Becoming a regular columnist

No.

-> A final word

Sante may be busy, and he may come across as a bit, well, crotchety. Take heed: We get the feeling that he is actually a softy at heart.
See Also:

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