Between You and MEdia… with Marc Narducci

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.

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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?
IMG_5140The 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: mnarducci@inquirer.com

Between You and MEdia… with Molly Given

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!


Over the past three years, Molly Given has established herself as one of Philadelphia’s go-to voices in the media for events, entertainment news and beyond. As a Features Editor for Metro Philadelphia Newspaper, Molly’s life-long passion for writing and meeting new people shines through in her content. Learn more about the person behind the page and discover how best to share your news with Molly in this edited interview by PPRA member Kellsey Turner. Photo courtesy of Molly Given.

What’s your favorite story that you’ve worked on?
That’s a tough question! I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I have ones that stand out. I did a story for the Penn Museum for their Global Guides program recently. The program featured in-depth tours of the recently opened Africa, Mexico/Central America and re-vamped Middle East galleries led by immigrants and refugees from the respective areas. I had the pleasure of interviewing a few of the guides and what they said was truly touching.

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What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you?
I would say to be clear with what the pitch is about right up front. I will be more likely to write about a story if I have a clear picture of exactly what it is. It’s definitely great to be detailed, but after you give the essential information. Also pitches that have pictures, or that offer to have you come out to check out the facility or event really help paint a picture as well.

Who/what inspired you to pursue journalism and what keeps you inspired?
I really just love the idea of getting to interview people and finding out their thoughts/feelings/desires and fears even. Everyone has a story to tell, and I love being able to tell them. That’s what continues to motivate and inspire me with journalism.

Take us through your story process. What elements do you look for?
I look for stories that are unique, but also ones that are informative. I don’t exactly look for the ‘juiciest scoop,’ but I do want to be someone who can shine a light on interesting circumstances and people.

Where do you start?
I typically start out writing stories with the facts that I have and then dive deep and research more. If there is an opportunity to learn more about a particular subject through interviews or seeing something first-hand as well, I’ll definitely jump on that opportunity.

How do you work with PR professionals?
I work with PR professionals mainly over email, but if I have developed a working relationship with them then we connect over the phone typically as well. But it’s always fun to meet in person too and get to know the PR professional behind the email.

How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks?
It ranges, but can be anywhere from 20-30. Sometimes more.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do?
With someone I don’t have a relationship with, I would say one more follow-up. Personally speaking, if I’m not hooked to the story after one follow-up, I don’t think I will be at that point, unless something changes. That actually is the same for someone I do have a relationship with as well.

How do you prefer to be pitched? What is the best way to make a pitch stand out?
Emails work. Also, I’m really just looking for an interesting story; so, if there is something interesting about whatever you are pitching, make sure to really sell that. Passion comes across on a page!

How do you step away from the 24-hour news cycle?
Typically, I do decompress for an hour or so after work. I put my phone down and just avoid technology. You need to step away. No one can be tuned in all the time; it’s good to take a break.

What’s a fun and interesting fact about yourself?
I grew up in Atlantic City and worked as a beach lifeguard for about ten years. That job was the second-best I’ve ever had, just behind this one.

What’s your favorite spot to think through a story?
In the sun—I love to be outside! The fresh air and Vitamin D always spark creativity for me.

The best way to pitch Molly is via email: molly.given@metro.us

Between You and MEdia… with Marilyn Johnson

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!


Marilyn Johnson started her blog 12 years ago, with the intention of sharing her love of writing about food. Now her blog, PhillyGrub is a must-follow for Philadelphia (and South Jersey) foodies. With more than 400,000 followers, the blog features interviews with local chefs and restaurateurs, restaurant reviews, and more. Learn more about how Marilyn turned her hobby into a career in the edited interview below. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Johnson.

Marilyn Johnson, Philly Grub

How did you get started as a journalist? By complete accident! I always loved writing and writing about food. So, I started my blog 12 years ago with the intention of sharing personal stories about the things I was cooking and talking about where I was eating in the city. Then I branched out into writing news pieces when PR people added me to their media list. I eventually embarked on writing restaurant reviews and other commentary about the Philly food scene. And then, a few years ago, I became a freelance contributor to various publications and media outlets on the side. It’s been immensely satisfying to grow what was originally a hobby into a career!

What’s your favorite story that you’ve worked? There isn’t one specific story that is my favorite. My favorite stories are the ones where I am able to feature lesser-known restaurants and share stories about the people you don’t already hear about working in the hospitality business. It gives me a lot of pleasure to help people, especially small businesses, get exposure.

Favorite food in Philly? Impossible to answer. But I’ll tell you that experiencing the Japanese Wagyu at Barclay Prime was pretty much life-changing… and yes, I wrote about that.

What advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you? Don’t just put me on your media list, blast out a press release to me and be done with it. I’m looking for unique stories that nobody else is writing about. I want people to come to Philly Grub and get a great story they’re not getting anywhere else. So reach out to me on a personal level with something awesome, not just the same old media alert you’re sending to everyone.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do? If I have responded positively to a pitch, then I feel there can never be enough communication. I try to get as many details and facts as I can so that I can put together a good piece. But if I haven’t responded to a PR pitch and the PR person is too aggressive, it may turn me off. I almost always respond to emails either way. I tell them, “yes, I can run this story,” or “no, I am not interested in covering this.” Most people get it; some don’t. Although, if I get a pitch for something irrelevant, chances are I will ignore it. I’d hope the PR person did their research on my beat and looked at my site for the type of stories I publish before reaching out. Fortunately, I have a great relationship with many PR people who I love working with. They are respectful and understand the kinds of stories I like to write.

How do you step away from the 24 hour newscycle? What do you do outside of work? I like to watch a lot of cooking and food-based television shows. I enjoy reading, especially vintage cookbooks. With that said, I love cooking at home and trying new recipes. I love being with my cats, spending time with my hubby, and traveling. The latter is on hold for the time being, of course.

How have you seen the world of blogging transform since you first got in the industry? It has changed drastically. Many people don’t even blog anymore! A lot of the bloggers that started around the same time I did have entirely abandoned their blogs. Some of them only create content for social media, while others have moved on in their lives. Also, anybody with an Instagram account can be considered a content creator. There is an entire cottage industry around social media influencers right now. Some PR people prefer to work with influencers over journalists and writers, and that’s fine. It depends on the client’s goals. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle since I have a fairly large, engaged audience on social media. I don’t like to call myself an influencer, though.

Best way to pitch Marilyn:  email at phillygrub@gmail.com

 

 

Between You and MEdia… with Stephanie Farr

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!


With 16 years under her belt as a journalist, a majority of which was spent in Philadelphia, the Inquirer’s Stephanie Farr has a natural sense of what makes a story uniquely Philly. Covering Philly Culture, Stephanie is inspired by the people she writes about and the people who read her work. Journalism was never Stephanie’s first choice in careers, but today, her favorite part of the job is meeting and learning about the incredible people of Philadelphia. Hear more about her process in the edited interview below. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Farr.

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Stephanie Farr

How did you get started as a journalist? I’m probably one of the few journalists left who fell into the career. Quite simply, I needed a job and I could write.

I graduated with a dual degree in creative nonfiction writing and communications from the University of Pittsburgh. I had no idea what the hell to do with my degrees so I began freelancing for my local paper in Williamsport shortly after college. Within a month or two, I was hired for a full-time position – first as an obituary writer, then as a news reporter.

 

I never worked for my high school or college paper and I was never interested in doing so. I was required to take one journalism class in college as part of my writing degree and I absolutely hated it. The professor, a miserable copy editor with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, only reinforced my belief that journalism was dry, boring, and devoid of creativity.

It was only after joining the staff of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and learning the kind of freedom I could have as a reporter that I fell in love with journalism.

Between you and me, what advice would you give PR professionals looking to pitch you?  For the love of all that is sweet and holy, please learn what reporter is the best one for your pitch. All of our beats – with descriptions – are listed clearly on our website.

One of my biggest questions when people pitch me a story is “What would get you to read this story if you didn’t care about the subject?” – and be honest with yourself. I know you’re beholden to clients, but I’m beholden to our readers – and I don’t want to bore them. The more unusual aspects or facts of a story you can provide, the more likely it is that I might be interested.

Also, if you believe you have a story that’s a perfect fit for me, pick up the phone and call me. I had this happen the other week and it was so refreshing I thanked the PR pro for doing it. I also worked harder to pursue the story than I otherwise might have done.

I get so many emails that even those pitches I may be interested can get pushed down in my inbox and quickly forgotten about. Phone is still the primary method of communication for me.

To get your email pitch to stand out, make sure it’s personalized to the reporter. And yes, we can tell when you’re just cutting and pasting different reporters’ names into the same email. That’s almost always an automatic delete for me.

How many pitches do you get a day from PR folks? So, so many. I’d guess anywhere from 50 to 100, and most of them are about things I would never cover.

How much follow up is too much on a pitch—with someone you don’t have a relationship with, and someone you do? This a major pet peeve for me and many other journalists right now. The “follow-up” and “just circling back around” emails – especially from PR pros I don’t know – are killing me and overloading my inbox.

If your first email pitch was not personalized to me (i.e., it appears to be a blanket pitch you’ve made to many reporters) and I am not interested in the subject, sending me a “follow-up” email will only enrage me. Sometimes, I’ve received as many as five “follow-up” emails from the same PR pro.

Now, if we know each other and/or I’ve expressed interest in your initial pitch, it’s OK to remind me of the story idea. Like I said, the amount of emails we receive on any given day is overwhelming and even the good ones can be forgotten.

Can you share a fun and interesting fact about yourself? I circumnavigated the world aboard a ship during my study abroad program, Semester at Sea. Our ports of call were Cuba, Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, India, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Japan. I caught a serious case of wanderlust during the voyage and I’ve been traveling ever since.

Favorite spot to think through a story? This is so boring, but it’s usually just at my desk. I once interviewed Salman Rushdie and asked his advice for aspiring writers. He said something like “Butt in chair.” He said the hardest part of writing for most people is forcing yourself to sit down, to put your butt in the chair, and begin. I’ve found that to be very true.

A memorable story that you’ve worked on: Most recently what made me glow was to see an artist with autism I profiled for my “We the People” series go from being relatively unknown when I first interviewed him to having his works sell for $25,000 by the end of last year. Kambel, his dad, and his brother expanded my idea of what I thought was humanly possible, and that is a great gift. When I walked into the gallery show opening in November and saw that the people of Philly had shown up for Kambel’s show – some because they’d read my articles on him –  I was moved to tears.

How to pitch Stephanie: sfarr@inquirer.com and 215.854.4225

Between You and MEdia… with Kelsey Fabian

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!


Having the energy and drive to be up and working before the sun rises takes a certain type of person, and Kelsey Fabian has proven through multiple jobs that she has what it takes. Fabian just celebrated her one-year mark working as a morning reporter for PHL17; the job that’s brought her back to her home state after years away in various parts of the country. The Lancaster County native spoke with University of the Sciences communications manager, Colby Gallagher, about what makes a morning show special and what she looks for when preparing for live shots. Photo courtesy of PHL17.

Kelsey Fabian PHL17

Kelsey Fabian, PHL17

How many years have you been in the industry and where have you worked? 

I’ve been in the industry for about 8 years, a little more than six of them have been on air. I started at NBC10 in Philadelphia working for the web team. From there I pursued a career on-air which took me to Alpena, Michigan; Portland, Maine; Greensboro, North Carolina, and finally back to Philadelphia.

How did you get started as a journalist and why?

I grew up with parents who were avid news watchers and at a young age I took interest in being “the lady on TV.” I took public speaking classes all through high school and wrote for the school paper and enjoyed both so broadcast journalism seemed like the right fit.

What advice would you give to public relations professionals when making a pitch to you?

I work on a live morning show so we do a lot of live feature segments. We have one reporter designated to that every morning. The pitches that makes us want to book your feature are the ones that are visual and interactive. If it’s a cooking segment. let the reporter cook alongside the chef, if it’s previewing an art festival let us make art with a local artist. If we are talking about a kid event, bring kids! If you can’t make it super interactive give us multiple people to talk to interview, it helps to move the segment along.

Journalists get hundreds of emails and pitches. Between you and me, what makes one stand out? Is it the subject line? Do you have to know the sender before opening it?

I would say the subject line and the first two sentences are key. If you don’t grab my attention quickly, then I will assume it isn’t going to grab the viewer’s.

Many PR professionals come from news, but it’s rapidly changing. What’s one thing you wish PR pros did more of?

Send an info sheet once the interview is setup. If we are doing three live hits with you that morning, send me an info sheet that includes what we are showing/doing each hit and the name/names and titles of the people I will be interviewing for every hit.

Also include a small summary of the most important information like time, date, event details, etc. I love when PR people do this; I print it out the morning of and take it with me, it helps me stay organized and is almost like a cheat sheet.

Also, please don’t give me a list of questions you want me to ask and don’t ask me for a list of questions that I am going to ask! I will gladly give you an idea of what I want to talk about and some specifics I want to cover, but I do not pre-write questions for a live segment.

Is there are particular topic or story you prefer over the others? Why?

Not really unless it’s animals, animal stories always win me over. I love variety though, so I like covering almost anything.

What’s a fun and/or interesting fact about yourself that most don’t know?

I am terrified of karaoke. Haha. People assume that just because you are on tv you aren’t shy about anything, but that’s not true.

Best way to pitch Kelsey for PHL17: kfabian@phl17.com