Most journalists hope to deliver powerful stories such as showing the strength of the human spirit. Some of the stories I covered that continue to stand out for me are men and women, young and old, battling back from a significant health problem with the help of a rehabilitation facility. You could define those reports as stories of struggle. I saw them as an alliance between a healthcare professional and often a young person determined to regain something lost or conquer something never before achieved.
The people who oversaw our editorial meetings never made my reports on these subjects the lead story. But I believed few stories in that day’s newscast matched the passion and emotion surrounding the people I profiled.
It is easy for rehabilitation centers to argue some of these stories should stay private. But I often interviewed patients who supported the opportunity to tell their story to as many viewers as possible while hopefully inspiring them. Rehab facilities should open their doors when appropriate and ensure the media and other outlets on the internet realize the centers and their patients can deliver important and often timely healthcare related stories. I remember Joyce, who due to government cuts, was not covered for important types of therapy.
When pitching these types of stories to the media:
- Establish a relationship with a journalist who has a built-in interest for healthcare stories. Some reporters thrive on breaking news and aren’t interested in stories that immediately place them several commercials into a newscast. Find a journalist who views this as more than just another assignment and will ensure the station doesn’t simply slap the story together like any other.
- Identify a patient. It’s easy to offer the media only an expert or healthcare professional. But the real story is the patient. More people might sign that consent form than you realize.
- Plan ahead. It takes time ensuring the patient and the healthcare professional can meet with the media at a time that won’t make others at the facility uncomfortable.
- Offer the reporter an opportunity to watch the patient take part in physical therapy. Such visuals add so much to any story. Watching someone take that next step is an emotional moment.
- Look for timely news opportunities. Some stories are so compelling, they don’t need to tie into anything in particular happening in our society. But newsrooms often want the story to connect to some important issue currently on people’s minds. Few issues in today’s environment are debated more than healthcare. Find a timely topic and offer a patient whose personal story will show the world these complex debates are about much more than crunching numbers.