There’s nothing more rewarding than digging into a story — finding experts to weigh in, researching, presenting facts in a new light — but for introverts, this usually means reaching out to sources and practically cold calling, which we all know is their absolute least favourite thing to do.
As an introverted news and media writer, I struggle with the idea of physically or digitally meeting new people. When I fell into this position, I wasn’t very good at sinking my teeth into the news, and instead was a glorified re-writer of press releases.
Over the past three years, I’ve grown a LOT as a news writer. I’m still extremely introverted, and scheduling a phone interview still takes up way too much of my mental day-of energy, but I’ve developed some strategies that work wonders, and have limited my need for actual interaction with sources and experts.
Let’s dig in to what’s worked for me:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
This goes completely against every instinct an introvert has. BUT, this is essential to being a great news writer.
When you find a story (or are sent a press release), read and research with a critical eye. Press releases are supposed to answer the big questions (who, what, where, why), but I’ve found they often do not. The ‘why is this interesting/important’ question is sometimes lost in the ‘hey, this is happening’ feeling of press releases.
This is your opening to ask questions. Make them specific, and try not to use yes/no questions as they will not help you tell a better story. Usually, releases include the email and phone number of whomever is sharing the news and can provide more details.
I always want to know things like:
- how does this help the community (or whomever it relates to)
- why is the company/organization doing this
- how is it funded
- who can participate, and why would they
- are there restrictions (for how they spend funding, for who is invited, is registration/payment required etc.)
These questions don’t have to be exhaustive in your first email (or your first interview-style email). You always have the opportunity to follow up with more questions to introduce something you forgot or to get further clarification.
Get on press release mailing lists
So where do you find these newsworthy press releases? I have signed up for releases from the following organizations:
Both of these pages allow you to filter by locations, topics/industries etc. They do result in quite a few emails, so I have them sent to a different email address than my day-to-day personal one.
I am also on mailing lists for local organizations, non-profits etc. It’s a case of emailing them and asking to be put on their news distribution list. As you join lists, you’ll find you get spammed by other PR agencies or similar, which can also be helpful for your story- and source-finding missions.
Consider signing up for newsletters from other media outlets or websites that fit your niche or location. Reading articles and news can sometimes spark an idea for something similar/more local/or even a deeper dive piece. Just be sure to cite any sources you use!
Set up Google Alerts
Google has a helpful tool that will also help fill your inbox. Google Alerts can be set for keywords and topics relevant to your beat or research needs.
You choose the search terms and Google will scour the internet for your topics and keywords and curate an email specific to what you are looking for. You can customize how often to receive these emails, what sources Google shares with you, and can even set up an alert on your own byline, name, or website to see if and when your writing is shared.
Follow your sources
While Meta has restricted access to Canadian news and news sources, there are many other places and ways to stay in the know with possible news sources.
Websites like Threads, X, and Instagram may provide you with leads or ideas, but LinkedIn can be a wealth of information for news and media writers. Businesses often share exciting news and developments there, and many industry leaders can be found, followed, and possibly contacted for their expertise.
Social media style sites can get overwhelming quickly. You could set up and use a separate profile from your personal one to follow your news and industry interests, while keeping your personal profile less busy. And don’t forget to engage with those you find there so that when you are ready to reach out with questions for an article, you’re not just a random name.
Recently I joined Reddit to keep my finger on the local pulse and see what people are talking about. I haven’t found any story ideas yet, but it’s a huge platform and could potentially be an excellent source for story ideas.
Connect over email
Long gone are the days of recorded face-to-face meetings. Even phone interviews are further and farther between. While both of those methods have merit and are sometimes the best bet to capture a story, introverts will be happy to know that email interviews are now a common way to “get the story.”
When working from press releases, a contact is almost always provided. And if not, contact the release sender and ask for an email address to follow up on the story.
I have had great success starting with an email interview. I draft a list of questions on the topic and the written reply allows the writer to think about what they want to say, and to usually say it fairly clearly. And, there’s no transcription required!
Occasionally your source will want to speak on the phone. For me, having already emailed a few times lessens some of the “cold call” stress, but I still try very hard to avoid phone interviews.
If you have to chat on the phone, write down your questions so you don’t get flustered and forget what you want to talk about. I find some people wander in their conversations, which wastes a lot of time. Put on your reporter hat and don’t be afraid to gently cut people off when they’ve gone off topic — time is money, yours and theirs! Redirect the speaker with a new question or follow-up query on something they’ve already brought up.
Remember that it’s just a person on the other end of the line. They make mistakes and feel anxiety at times, just like everyone else. Keep breathing, ask your questions, and listen more than you speak. Maybe someday your phone comfort will grow. (Mine hasn’t yet!)
You’ve got this!
Writing can be an excellent job for an introvert, but news writing does require a lot of contact with sources. Even writing articles for businesses or organizations can require research and expertise.
Try out some of these strategies, and you may find you will be able to produce better, more informative pieces, regardless of who you are writing for. I use these strategies for my news writer job, my freelance article writing work, and for creating content for my personal website.
People are very willing to discuss their industry work, news, and expertise, especially if it gets them in the “news”!
How do work through the classic introvert struggles as a news or media writer? Share your best tips in the comments!