5 Minute Ago Rule

The media can be a great tool to help you get the word out about your business or organization. The key is understanding how the media works and why they do what they do.

Dan Bewley reporting live for KOTV


I spent 25 years in the local TV news business so I’d like to share what I affectionately call the “Five minute ago rule”. The goal is to help you prepare for when you get a call from a reporter.

The city of Tulsa has nearly 2000 minutes of television news everyday. That counts weather, sports, and commercials but it’s the amount time the local news television stations have allotted to cover news. They can easily scrub sports or cut back on weather or commercials if there’s a big story.

The news day starts first thing in the morning with an editorial meeting. This is where management, reporters, and producers discuss what stories they’re going to be covering that day.

One question I hear a lot in these meetings is, ‘What is everyone talking about today?’  That’s different then what’s the most important thing happening today and, keep this in mind, what everyone is talking about may not necessarily be happening here in town it may be a national story that has caught everyone’s attention.

That’s important because your business or nonprofit organization may have expertise in that particular field and you could be called on by the local media to get perspective. For example, if there is an event that happened at a business in Minnesota newsrooms often ask, ‘Could that happen here?’ Most of the time the answer is yes, which means the newsroom will reach out to individuals who run the same type of business or provide the same type of services here in town and ask what their plan is or what they think of what happened in Minnesota. It’s important to follow the national news and be prepared to provide yourself as an expert. The news media loves experts.


So now it’s mid-morning and the reporter calls you to provide some perspective. At this point the reporter has the news director breathing down his neck to see if there’s a story, the noon newscast producer has already slotted the reporter in for a live shot (even though the reporter hasn’t talked with anyone yet), the assignment manager wants to know where the reporter plans to do a live report from, and the photojournalist is waiting to walk out the door.


When I call someone it activates “The five minute ago rule”. What I mean by that is, someone will ask ‘When do you need to talk to us?’ My answer is, five minutes ago. As reporter I was well aware of how things work, I know all about the hierarchy of management approval before they’re able talk. I understood all that, but to be frank it didn’t really matter to me because I had a producer or news director that wanted that story ASAP. I didn’t have time to sit around and wait so if the first person I talked to said they couldn’t get to me until the afternoon I would move on to the next person because I needed to talk to somebody five minutes ago. The bottom line is, as a reporter, I cared right then and there and it’s entirely possible I may not care the next day.

We have to feed the news beast and that news beast doesn’t wait for anybody.

If you’re looking for media training or know of someone who is in the market I’d love to sit down and discuss how I can help set up your team for success when dealing with the media.

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