Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SACRAMENTO NWR: The Right Story at the Right Time: How a well timed media story (or two) can make a difference
California-Nevada Offices , December 18, 2007
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By Alexandra Pitts, Region 8 External Affairs 

Sometimes a well written and well timed story can have a very positive impact on our image and priorities.  This fall, two such stories made a real difference to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  When this happens, Project Leaders often ask how their refuge or station can get that kind of coverage.  If it can be defined in one word, that word would be relationships.  In both cases the writers have strong relationships both with the refuge and the people who work there.


In late October, Glen Martin, formerly a reporter with San Francisco Chronicle contacted Sacramento NWR Deputy Manager Greg Mensik regarding a feature story he was working on for the Chronicle’s pre-Thanksgiving Sunday Magazine. Glen, a frequent visitor to the refuge and an avid duck hunter, wanted to write a story on the Pacific Flyway, with an emphasis on improved habitats/wildlife populations/waterfowl populations over the past 20 years.  Glen, accompanied by photographer Christina Koci-Hernandez , visited the refuge and interviewed both refuge and non refuge staff for ‘The Birds are Back: Good News along the Pacific Coast Flyway” which appeared in the November 18 issue of the Chronicle Magazine.


At the same time, outdoor writer Tom Stienstra was looking for a positive story following the San Francisco Bay oil spill.  He called refuge Supervisory Wildlife Biologist Mike Wolder and published a column about the fly-out at the Sacramento Refuge that encouraged people to take the driving tour.  Tom has a regular column in the Chronicle which also appears from time to time in other papers that carry columns distributed by the New York Times News Service.  “Its Pretty White Near Sacramento”, which included quotes from Mike, ran in the Chronicle on November 14.


I spoke with Greg after the Thanksgiving holiday to learn what effect, if any, the stories had on the refuge.  He reported that while Thanksgiving and the weekend following are routinely some of their busiest, averaging 1,000 visitors a day, this year the average was nearly 1,350 visitors daily!  In addition, many were first time visitors who indicated that it was the articles in the Chronicle that inspired them to make the journey from the San Francisco Bay area.  Greg emphasized that relationships are at the core of everything we do, and often make the difference between getting media coverage or not.  Like all good relationships, working with the media takes time, patience and careful cultivation; they don’t just happen.  Greg recalled that responding quickly with good, factual information is often the best way to start that relationship.  Being a reliable contact for information makes you the “go to” source.  Greg also reminded me that not every effort is rewarded with an accurate story.  If that is the case, keep trying.  Put that reporter on the mailing list and let them know about interesting stories and opportunities at the station.


Greg’s last comment was, in many ways, the most important.  “Above all else, remember to have fun.”  Whether you work at a refuge, a hatchery or a fish and wildlife office, the Service does fascinating restoration and recovery work that people like to write about.  Conveying our passion for our work can often get you the right story at the right time.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov
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