Mar 26, 2004
SUMMARY: One million readers turn to the Miami Herald every day. Would you like to be featured in the Business Section? Editor Brad Lehman reveals what stories he's looking for, and how to pitch them successfully: || |
Acting Business Editor
One Herald Plaza
Miami, FL 33132
Daily: One million
Sunday: 1.2 million
-> Lehman's background
In newspaper journalism for 22 years, Lehman worked at the Herald since 1990, first in the Community News section, then as Night City Editor, before moving to the business desk.
He enjoys business, Lehman says, because, "You get an understanding of where the jobs are, what businesses are most important to an area's economy. You get a sense of both the successes and the failures in what works."
Lehman talks slowly, with frequent pauses -- a welcome change from the harried editors we generally speak to.
-> Current editorial coverage
"We try to reflect a mix of national and local news," Lehman says. "If there's a story of national interest that we feel like we can localize, we might pursue that."
The definition of what makes a local story is relatively loose. "I got a tip from someone in the fencing industry about steel prices and why they're going up," Lehman says. "It wasn't a local angle per se, but it's interesting in that local people will be affected by it." National stories with a local twist might include:
o A national chain selling a number of stores, some of which might be in and around Miami
o National companies with significant local employment such as American Airlines
o A trial in local courts that's of national significance
o How the mutual fund crisis might affect local investors
More localized stories focus on companies based in South Florida (mainly Miami Dade and Broward Counties) and state government.
The business pages also cover stories about Latin America, a region vital to Miami's economy. However, if you're pitching a story about the Hispanic marketplace, remember that the market is a varied one. "What I want to know is the South Florida breakout on those numbers, because sometimes trends don't hold up in Florida the same way they would in Chicago, LA, Houston," Lehman says.
-> The best way to pitch Lehman
Think like an editor, he suggests. Don't hide the story. "Sometimes people want to tell things in a narrative style and they don't get to the point," he says. "Pretend you're writing a news story, get right to the point, and tell right off the bat the main thing that you're pitching."
You'll find a beat list in the Monday business tabloid. You can either send the pitch to the appropriate reporter or directly to Lehman, who will route it.
While Lehman prefers email pitches because he can put them aside until he has a chance to look at them, he generally doesn't mind phone pitches, particularly if it's about something happening right now.
For phone and email, earlier in the day and earlier in the week is best. "If someone calls at 5 pm Friday and wants to have a ten-minute discussion with me, it's not going to happen," he says. Then he adds, "Unless it's something happening right now that I need to know about. Then I want to find it out."
-> What Lehman looks for in a story pitch
"We don't want to print what everyone else is saying."
#2. An insider's view
Lehman likes to gain insight into the business community and its key issues. Make him feel as though you're giving him an in-depth understanding of those issues and you're likely to capture his interest.
#3. New angles
"I find it interesting to come up with some new angle on a big story," he says. If you're pitching something that ties in to a current flavor-of-the-month -- ethical issues or jobs shifting offshore, for example -- offer him a new take on it.
-> Pet peeves
Lehman is irritated by emails that contain nothing but a link to a Web site. "I've had people call me and say, 'You need to do such-and-such a story,' and I say, 'You have any information on it?' and they say they'll send an email," Lehman says.
The email directs him to a Web site, and when he gets there, there's no story.
"If you waste my time, I'm going to write you off. I kill off about a hundred messages a day, and that means you've got to make your pitch in a couple of minutes," he says.
Another pet peeve is being given an exclusive that turns out not to be exclusive at all. "If a media representative goes and takes that [exclusive] and does the grenade approach and gives it to a lot of other people, I'm going to remember your name," he says.
-> Becoming a regular columnist
Chances of that are just slightly more than zero. "We have an attorney who does a tech law piece like once a month," he says. But it would have to be someone who comes with a lot of authority and "a certain degree of gravity."
-> Prewritten contributions
-> Where you can meet Lehman
"I have spoken to people in their offices, and occasionally scheduled lunches, but it's better to have a sit-down in my offices and talk for half an hour," he says.
Give him a call if you think you can be a good ongoing source for him.
-> What he looks for in online press rooms
He doesn't want to have to register to get into the press room. "I know that there has to be a reason for that, but man, it does waste a lot of my day. And when it comes to Web site sign-ons, I can never remember my password."
He does review press releases and financial information online, as well as using your site to get contact information. "Sometimes that takes a lot of time," he notes. "It seems like companies don't want to leave a phone number."
-> Favorite professional publication
In addition to local newspapers ("because they're our main competition"), he reads the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Business Week regularly.