Tools of the Trade

As the volume of media outlets is on the rise, the target audience for each has become more tailored and the number of journalists within each media outlet has decreased (Project for Excellence in Journalism). With this downsizing of the newsroom has come an increased reliance on outside sources for information. Many newsrooms rely on tips from their viewers to know more about what is going on in the community.

Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs have a tremendous opportunity to reach out to the news media to promote the aspects of their programs. In order to supply the media with newsworthy and accurate news stories, it is helpful to know more about the tools of the trade.

Media Lists:
A media list contains the reporters’ names, the types of stories they cover, their contact information and their preferred method of contact, if known. An updated media list can help you make contact with the right media outlet or journalist.
News Release:
The news release is a basic form of communication to the media that announces some type of event or announcement. News releases can be faxed, mailed, emailed or delivered in person to the outlet or journalist. Consider writing a news release to announce the launch of a SRTS program or funding, release the findings of a SRTS survey or to promote a walking school bus program. For template news releases provided by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, please visit
Media Advisory:
The media advisory announces the basic information about a newsworthy event. It includes the who, what, where, when and significance of the event. Consider using a media advisory to announce a Walk to School Day event or the presentation of SRTS funding. For a template Walk to School Day media advisory, please visit
Talking Points:
Talking points can offer helpful information on topics such as trends in school travel, safety, physical activity, environment and air quality, background on the event, Safe Routes to School and a list of participating countries. Provide a copy of talking points to journalists as background. Talking points can be helpful during interviews with local media, meetings with parents or any other communication planned surrounding a SRTS program. For SRTS-related talking points, please visit
Letter to the Editor:
Letters to the Editors can be written to raise an issue concerning the readers of that publication. Keep letters brief, as publications typically have length guidelines.
Op-Ed Piece:
An op-ed piece is an editorial submitted to a media outlet for publication. Generally longer than letters to the editor, op-ed pieces can be written to comment on the importance of pedestrian and bicycle safety or the need for proper infrastructure surrounding a school.