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Demonstrating positive impact of services can win media coverage for park and rec agencies

This is an excerpt from Creating Community by California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS).

Is Your Story Newsworthy?

To get media coverage, you need to promote something newsworthy. For park and recreation agencies, there may occasionally be bad news or controversy to manage (e.g., an accident or crisis), but most of the time park and recreation agencies generate good news, which can make it difficult to gain coverage.

If you're not sure whether a story is newsworthy, review the following list of questions and see if you can answer yes to one or more reasons your story may be newsworthy:

  • Does it have an impact on the media outlet's readers or viewers?
  • Is it local?
  • Is there a controversy or conflict?
  • Is someone prominent involved?
  • Is something unusual involved?

The following are newsworthy items:

  • New research: facts, figures, trends
  • An award or honor
  • An anniversary or milestone
  • A visiting policy maker
  • The opening of a facility
  • A new partnership

Newsworthy events can be used for promoting any of the nine mission components for parks and recreation, each of which can be framed under one of the three "space to" themes mentioned in chapter 7. Following are some sample story angles that reinforce the VIP mission.

Providing Recreational Experiences

In preparation for the summer months, the [park and recreation agency name] is expanding its [youth and family activities] program. Last year, [agency] served over 15,000 families through the program, which was initiated in response to residents' complaints about loitering teens two years ago. Since the start of the program, the city has seen a drop of [X]% in youth-related crime in the months of June, July, and August compared to two years ago.

Fostering Human Development

The [park and recreation agency name] is partnering with the public health department to offer parenting classes to local teen moms. The classes take place at the recreation center and give young mothers the chance to learn parenting skills without the worries of finding child care. Public health representatives have long been concerned about the lack of such education services for young mothers. Thus far, [XX] teen mothers have gone through the class and they report that attending the class has increased their knowledge of nutrition, age-appropriate behaviors, and parental responsibilities.

Promoting Health and Wellness

The senior center operated by [park and recreation agency name] has partnered with the local hospital and funders to create Aging With Energy. In this program, senior participants receive free pre- and postfitness testing and classes that increase fitness, strength, balance, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Seniors learn to monitor their own blood pressure and depression, two of the biggest health concerns among people ages 65 to 75. The program not only educates the elderly; it also empowers them by reminding them that they have control of their physical condition.

Increasing Cultural Unity

More than 60 ethnic communities participated in the International Friendship Festival, sponsored by the [park and recreation agency name]. City officials say that the festival is effective in building bridges in the community, reducing fear and intolerance, and motivating residents into lifelong learning. Since the recent suspected racially motivated attack of [name], the town had been stricken with suspicion, resentment, and pain. The festival attempted to open up dialogue once again among residents of the diverse community.

Facilitating Community Problem Solving

Amid recent public debates about skateboarding on city sidewalks and parking lots, the [local park and recreation agency name] has proposed construction of a skateboard park in a nearby park. Both sides agree that this is the right solution because of its proximity to the middle school and public transportation.

Protecting Environmental Resources

Eight youth from the local high school joined biologist [name] in a hike along a local stream to look for signs of an oil spill that occurred six months ago. The program was originally designed to involve local teens in cleaning up the spill, but it has evolved into an ongoing monitoring program. Representatives from the [park and recreation agency name] now routinely talk to the local high school's 9th- and 10th-grade biology classes to give students updates on the status of the stream.

Strengthening Safety and Security

Based on findings that youth ages 12 to 17 are at the highest risk of violence between the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the [park and recreation agency name] partnered with the local police department and [name] school district to design programs that provide youth with a safe place to be after school. The conversation resulted in the development of a teen program, which now serves [XX] youth. Youth-related crimes have decreased in the neighborhood by [XX]%, and residents, parents, and youth alike credit the teen program with contributing to the town's safety.

Strengthening Community Image and Sense of Place

To assist the community in remembering the September 11, 2001, attack, the [park and recreation agency name] will sponsor an annual candlelight vigil at a local park to commemorate the loss of lives.

Supporting Economic Development

A recent study conducted by the [name] Real Estate Agents Association showed that quality of life ranked in the top five most important factors in deciding to purchase a home in [city].

The [name] park and recreation agency recently received the highest award from [organization] for its efforts in attracting shoppers to the downtown shopping district during its remodeling. Owner of [name of store] stated that the Thursday night street fair organized by the [name] park and recreation department increased his sales in spite of the streets being under repair.

This is an excerpt from Creating Community: An Action Plan for Parks and Recreation.

More Excerpts From Creating Community