How to pitch to the Today programme
We hold regular briefings with journalists and editors to help our members pitch to news outlets and keep up to date with the changing media landscape. IBT Director Mark Galloway chaired our recent briefing with Tom Feilden and shares tips on how to pitch to the Today programme.
The Today programme is probably the most important news outlet in the UK. If you’re a charity and you want to achieve a high profile for an issue you’re campaigning on then Today will undoubtedly be one of your key media targets. Although the programme has had a slight dip in its audience recently, it still reaches 6 million people every day.
It was a pleasure for us to host a briefing this week with Tom Feilden, Assistant Editor on Today. Tom is a veteran of the programme, joining initially as a general reporter (when Today had general reporters), then taking on the science and environment brief and more recently becoming assistant editor.
Tom has seen the programme change through numerous editors. Its USP remains the same, he told us: to set the news agenda for the day ahead. It is relentless in its focus on developing and breaking stories. The programme has become more topical in recent years, with fewer packages and more two-ways with correspondents and experts.
What’s the best way to pitch to Today?
In some ways, pitching to Today is no different from pitching to any other news outlet. You need to be very clear on what your story is, what your angle is, why it is important, why it should be covered now and what special access you can offer.
The best way to pitch is to build relationships. And to persevere. If your story is rejected, don’t give up. Try with a different story on another occasion. If your email goes unanswered, try emailing someone else on the team. Today is a three-hour daily show, Monday to Friday and a two-hour show on Saturday. It is hungry for stories and for articulate contributors. But the team is overwhelmed with pitches and yours may get missed. If you’re emailing someone you know, it is much more likely that the email will get proper attention.
Listen to the programme and have a clear idea of where the opportunities lie. Today does very few packages of its own as BBC budget cuts have meant that the programme has lost its team of dedicated reporters. It now has to rely on BBC correspondents. So, if Lyse Doucet is in Afghanistan, as she is this week, then she will file stories for Today and for several other BBC News outlets. But Today does not have the resources to send its own correspondent to Afghanistan.
What are the opportunities for international coverage?
Today’s main focus is domestic news but each day it will run one or two international stories. On the day we held our briefing with Tom these included Lyse Doucet’s latest report from Afghanistan and a two-way with Lyse. It also included a report from the BBC’s Africa correspondent, Andrew Harding, who has been deployed to Ukraine. Ukraine remains an important focus for Today and it will be covering the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion.
It’s disappointing that there are not more opportunities for foreign coverage on Today. However, Tom reassured us that each story will be judged on a case by case basis.
Where it is feasible to pitch to Today is if you have a suggestion for a studio guest with expertise about a story in the news or on the ground experience. It’s important that Today features a wide range of voices from all walks of life not just the usual suspects. International stories that require an on the ground reporter should be pitched to the BBC News Foreign Desk.
Pitching Science and Environment stories
Tom still holds the science and environment brief and this remains an important area of coverage for Today. Tom himself is a former presenter of the radio show, Costing the Earth, and has won awards for his coverage of nature and environmental issues.
On climate change, Tom would like to see Today do more to monitor commitments made by Government and other institutions to achieve net zero. And he’d like to see more coverage of biodiversity, an issue that has not received the attention that it deserves.
More positive stories
Finally, Tom urged us to pitch more positive stories. The news is often bleak and the programme is always looking for solutions to problems or examples of success stories. Recently, they have been running a series on industries where Britain excels, which has gone down well with audiences.
Mark Galloway is IBT Director firstname.lastname@example.org
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