WCVB-TV Assignment Editor: Time it right

A successful pitch isn’t just well written. It’s timed perfectly. Ask Sheila Halloran, the assignment editor at WCVB-TV in Boston.

“Don’t call at noon straight up – and don’t call at 5 o’clock straight up,” she said. At both hours, the station is starting a newscast. Chances are she can’t pick up.

“Make sure you know when you’re calling,” she said. “Know what time is the newscast on.”

In rare cases, it’s okay to pitch during a newscast. In fact, a call to the news desk during breaking news coverage - can be a winner. Just make the pitch relevant. 

“If there’s something going on and you think there’s someone who can add to the story, we’re always looking for that,” she said.

If you’ve got an expert Sheila can use and a story’s hot, “send that out right away - that way we don’t have to spend a long time trying to find somebody,” she said.

Well-targeted pitches get coverage at WCVB, but even some of the best, don’t make the cut.

“We probably cover one percent of the press releases we get – maybe a fraction,” she said.

The key to getting Sheila’s attention is a tightly written, one-page press release - or a quick phone call that’s direct and to the point.

“If it doesn’t catch us in one or two sentences, we’re going to give up,” she said.

Sheila picks up the phone dozens of times a day. She gets a couple hundred emails, too.

But if the pitch is on target - and the time is right - Sheila Halloran’s ear is yours.

Contributed by Aaron Kellogg.  Follow him @KelloggAaron