Five Good Ideas

Five Good Ideas about how non-profits can benefit from the media revolution

Published on 23/02/2015

For years, news media were the gatekeepers to the public agenda. Anyone hoping to shape the debate on a given issue had to pitch stories to journalists, submit occasional op-eds, and hope for impact. But the current media revolution is turning the tables: Audiences now demand deeper coverage of complex stories at the very moment when media have fewer specialized staff to deliver it. Non-profits that know how to help news media cover a public issue – and who can undertake those collaborations responsibly – are now in a better position than ever to engage the public.

In this session, Rob Steiner shared five good ideas for non-profits that want to create new collaborations with media.

Five Good Ideas

  1. Think small (media). Rather than focusing primarily on major media players, consider them just one part of a portfolio of media with which you can build relationships. Smaller media covering your speciality, professions, communities, ethnicities, and industries are the very heart of this portfolio. And they need you.
  2. Do deals. Instead of just pitching story ideas or experts, pitch a real partnership with media that need your help. Do deals to help media partners cover your issues (but not your organization) consistently, and deeply.
  3. Be a newsroom. Create a simple, small process within your organization for identifying important, untold stories in your field. You might add 10 or 15 minutes to your regular staff meeting and board meetings and task one executive with managing the conversation and synthesizing ideas.
  4. Train staff to do journalism the way we train first aid. Using a simple template, train staff to identify and pitch untold stories of interest to media. Any organization will likely have people who want to do more: Direct them to training to write, podcast, shoot video, build websites, etc., and engage them.
  5. Train clients to be reporters. Clients of your organization can be especially great reporters on their issues – and the experience can be especially empowering to people who feel marginalized. Identify clients with an interest, and offer them the same training you are offering to staff, with a particular focus on helping those who may be vulnerable protect themselves as they do the work.

Five Good Resources

  1. To stay abreast of changes in Canadian media, and links to training:
  2. To stay abreast of changes in large and local Canadian newspapers, including data on circulation
  3. To stay abreast of innovations in US media, which you can help bring to your Canadian partners: PBS Mediashift, especially and
  4. For tips and training in journalism skills:
  5. To understand the changing nature of public trust and how to cultivate it, Edelman’s 2015 Trust Barometer:

Robert Steiner

Director, Dalla Lana Fellowship in Global Journalism, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Robert Steiner is Director of the Dalla Lana Fellowship in Global Journalism, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. The Fellowships are a fundamentally new type of post-graduate training in global journalism, for starting journalists with advanced knowledge of complex disciplines. Robert began his career as a global finance correspondent for The Wall Street Journal with postings in New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo, where he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, won two Overseas Press Club awards and the Inter-American Press Association Award. After leaving The Wall Street Journal, Robert received his Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and then worked as a business strategy executive, first at The Boston Consulting Group and later as Group Vice President in charge of Strategic Planning for Bell Globemedia, parent of The Globe and Mail and CTV. From 2005 to 2010, Robert was Assistant Vice President of the University of Toronto, in charge of Strategic Communications. He has also held a number of senior campaign positions in Canadian politics. In 2002 and 2003, he served as health policy advisor and principal speechwriter for the Hon. Paul Martin, during his candidacy for the premiership of Canada and during his subsequent tenure as Prime Minister-designate. In 2000, he managed the Liberal Party of Canada’s new media campaign in the period leading to and during the federal general election, working for Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Outside of work, Robert is engaged in independent writing projects focused on the role of religion in secular society. He lives in Toronto with his wife, daughter and son.