As PR professionals, we all know the importance of building meaningful relationships with members of the media – reporters, producers, assignment editors, etc. But how does that happen, and where do you start?
In this new section of the PPRA blog, PPRA members will share insight, tips and tricks, and fun facts learned from members of the media through informal interviews. You won’t have to wait for our “Media Mingle” or “Editors Panel” to get your tough questions answered and connect with the media. Our goal with this blog section is to continue engagement with our media counterparts in an informative and fun manner. So, between you and me – enjoy!
Marc Narducci has been a Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter since 1983, offering stories, videos, photos & commentary mainly on the 76ers & Temple football. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic he has shifted some of his reporting to news and The Upside – the Inquirer’s newest section which celebrates good news, good stories and the very best of the Greater Philadelphia region. Marc is a passionate storyteller whose love for his craft and this region shine through in his reporting. Learn from PPRA member Melissa Fordyce on how he got this start, how he likes to be pitched and the favorite story he’s covered. Photos courtesy of Marc Narducci.
How did you get started as a journalist?
I first started out as a reporter for a local newscast in cable TV while I was still in college in 1979. I stayed there for five years, but while there, I realized that I better become a little more versatile so through contacts I was able to do some freelance sports stories for the Courier Post and a few for The Inquirer. When The Philadelphia Inquirer debuted a South Jersey section in 1984, I was hired. It wasn’t full-time but back then there was an unlimited freelance budget, so I was working full-time hours. I didn’t become full-time until 1997.
Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired?
I just always had a love for sports and wanted to report on it whether electronically or for print. Over the years I have done a lot of small cable TV sports stuff such as covering games, sports shows, etc. I just always wanted to have a career where I was covering sports and for the most part that is how it has been. Now due to the coronavirus, I have been also writing news (until the games return) and that has also been interesting. It is not my comfort zone but have met a lot of good people and have done several different types of stories from straight news to features.
What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
The fact that I am covering something I love and get to tell the story. It’s always said that no two days are the same. I wouldn’t go that far, but there is so much different that occurs. Each story presents its own new challenge. I especially like covering a team on a day to day basis, because you become so familiar with the participants and the subject.
What’s your favorite story that you’ve worked?
I just finished a 12-part series on the 76ers 12 most memorable playoff games, which is still running now. The reason I enjoyed it was I went back and interviewed players and coaches and learned so much that I didn’t know about many of these famous games. Some of the information I had never read before and that is always good to uncover new information and it was fascinating to see how well people remembered events that in some cases were more than 50 years ago.
Take us through your story process – What elements do you look for?
Where do you start? You always look for a hook. The story we always ask is why should this story be published. What about it makes it worth pursuing. When you are covering a team on a day to day basis, you are often doing the news of the day, although you are always looking for a different slant to a story everybody else is covering. When doing a feature, then you want to really say, what makes this story worth publishing.
We get pitched on a lot of stories with similar themes, so we are always looking for what makes this story stand out. For instance, while working for The Inquirer’s Upside section, we get pitched on so many people doing good things for charity. That should never be discounted, but then we look at what makes this story so unique. Maybe it is something that they are doing different. Maybe it is the individual who has a good and unique story. But we always look beyond just the nuts and bolts of a story and look to see what will make it stand out.
How do you work with PR professionals?
I love working with PR professionals because for the most part, they know what we need. The really good ones know how to pitch a story, know our needs and can deliver us the people we need to talk to. That is the most important thing. Not only getting a good story but getting the people who can talk about it in an interesting way. You know within a few minutes of a phone call or even from reading an email if a PR professional is sharp.
What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you?
Read the product you are pitching to. Don’t pitch me a story that ran in yesterday’s paper. Also have a little idea about the work the reporter you are pitching to does. The more effective pitches come from people who are not just cold calling but have a familiarity with what we do and possibly the type of stories we need.
How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks? Since working for the Upside section, it has increased to probably several a day, but that is fine. The hardest thing is to say no to somebody. One thing I do is I will pitch every story idea I get unless I think it has no chance to succeed. For instance, if we have done a story or even several on a topic I pitch, I will tell the PR person that it isn’t likely that it will be used.
How do you prefer to be pitched? What is the best way to make a pitch stand out?
I like email. Everything is outlined there and plus you have a record of it. I keep a file of all the stories I am pitched and it is easy to do it that way. Also, I like the people who even if I turn them down, that they come back with more ideas.
Favorite local sports hero – past or present?
Always loved Hank Aaron. I thought he is the most underrated sports superstar and love the way he still carries himself today with so much dignity.
Favorite game or sports story you’ve covered?
The Eagles 41-33 win over New England in Super Bowl LII. I was in Minnesota the entire week doing pre-game stories and it was exciting to be part of our coverage. I normally don’t do this, but after the game and long after I had filed my story, I went down on the field and had my photo taken there. Normally I remain neutral. I don’t root for teams, I root for no injuries and a good storyline, but the fact that it was the Eagles first Super Bowl title and to be part of it was pretty special.
Favorite spot to think through a story?
My kitchen. That is where I do most of my work. I take phone calls, write the stories right here. The only problem is when my wife runs the microwave, then it gets a little hard to hear, but other than that, it’s my spot.
The best way to reach Marc: firstname.lastname@example.org