Sometimes my PR friends ask me what it takes to get a story on the news.
The next time you wonder, I hope you'll remember the tomato. The story hook might be right under your nose or more accurately here, in your garden.
Early this summer, one of our news crews went to the Oregon Food Bank to get a comment on a man who was raising money for the organization.
The interview happened to take place in the Food Bank's garden. The Food Bank planned to grow some of its own food to add to the bounty they give away each week.
They probably pitched that idea to our newsroom but I don't think we did anything with it because compared to the other news of the day, its, well boring.
But on this day, photographer Mike Galimanis sensed an opportunity. After they were done talking about the man raising money, Mike had an idea.
"I saw a small green tomato and as I was leaving suggested we follow it," he told me.
The staff at the Food Bank knew a great idea when they heard it and quickly agreed. The plant was tagged for a future story.
In early September, the crew returned because it was time to harvest the tomato.
This time the story focused on the efforts of the Food Bank to grow its own vegetables. The news crew also followed that particular tomato from the garden to a homeless shelter for kids where a chef sliced it up and served it to a young man.
I was in the morning story meeting the day the crew pitched the final version of this piece. Sometimes we have debates and discussions that go on 15-minutes or more as we decide whether to go after a story. Not that day.
It was pitched and assigned within about 60 seconds.
The take aways:
1) Think about creative ways to tell your story especially if it's not necessarily new.
2) Keep your ears and mind open to suggestions from others.
3) Local media have very little time to prepare stories each day. If you can take care of the logistics and let them know in advance, you have a much better chance of getting the story approved. The final tomato story got fast approval because the reporting team knew they'd see the tomato picked, given to the homeless shelter, cut up that day for lunch and fed to a young man who had already agreed to be on camera.
That's how stories get through.