Add Context to Your News Releases

By Jerry Brown, APR

When I was a reporter, journalists focused on five questions: who, what, where, when and why. We often skipped why.

Reporters still ask those questions. But today they’re more likely to go a step further and focus on questions that add context and explore how their stories affect the lives of the audiences they write for.

Here’s how the late Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Molly Ivins put it:

“It has almost become a truism of our trade that the net effect of new technologies of communication is not that a new one replaces an old one (TV, for example, didn’t cause radio to vanish), but that we all take one step back along the food chain, as it were. For instance, newspapers rarely break news any more. We now fill the role (more successfully in some cases than in others) that used to be played by the newsmagazines, which is to put the news in context – to give you some idea what it means in your life.”

That opens the door to stories that didn’t exist before, stories you can pitch successfully to reporters if you help them answer a new set of questions:

  • Why. Stories about context often begin with the question reporters used to skip much of the time. Why
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