“How to Pitch” Series: The Toronto Star, Ed Cassavoy

December 15, 2014

In this post we glean the insights of The Toronto Star’s  Ed Cassavoy, the outlet’s Senior Editor, Special Sections, who overseesCO-Ed Cassavoy01.JPG two weekly Travel sections (print and online) and the Saturday Wheels and Homes & Condos sections. Before joining the Star, he was a Thomson Newspapers Corp. editorial consultant responsible for 55 newspapers across Canada and has held various newsroom roles. So let’s discover what’s going on in the Canadian media.

  1. Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind, where is travel editorial heading?
    There is a dramatic, seismic shift coming in the next year to 18 months as the digital conversion in Travel media gains momentum. Reflecting that, The Star has announced launching a new iPad digital edition (free app) by the fall of 2015. We will be aggressively moving into mobile. We already receive huge readership through Facebook. The demand for visuals, video, stunning photography, non-linear ways to tell stories will grow. We will also be to showcase photos and get readers interacting with us and the coverage in totally new ways.  To do that, we will need the folks representing the tourism players to keep coming with good ideas.
  1. What elements influence whether or not you read a pitch?
    A straightforward approach that has clear merit always works. A Canadian angle is imperative, but that means the pitcher may need to know a bit about the quirks of Toronto market and how people travel – a multicultural, diverse metropolitan area. An intriguing picture never hurts (swimming pigs will always catch an editor’s eye, for example). Getting to the point helps in your pitch too.
  1. Do you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest as a resource for story ideas?
    I do for approaches to covering stories, but not routinely for individual ideas as that would be an overwhelming, never-ending task. I have my own favorites, but it’s selective compared to the steady stream of good ideas from freelancer writers and publicists .
  1. Should PR professionals be incorporating social media ready content in their pitches for you? If so, what do you need?
    Yes. Sometimes I’m amazed at how little information is provided for what is a crucial part of telling the story to readers. We need an itinerary in advance and with enough detail to parse out how to cover it for print, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, web and soon, tablet.  Is wifi available? What is the hashtag for an event? What pics can we get to fire off through Twitter? When can we release information, etc.
  1. What types of story ideas excite you personally – and motivate you to pursue them further?
    People drive the narrative. The Star also has a strong commitment to social justice. Our readers care about where their tourism dollars go. They may want to go somewhere sunny, and the deciding factor when you’re comparing two relatively equal destinations may come down to which place does a better job investing in the local economy or minimizing the environmental impact of visitors.
  1. What role, if any, do press trips play in your editorial decision making?
    They allow our freelancers to secure stories we could never afford them to go on The Star’s Travel budget. The best ones are exclusive or tailored to our market. I also appreciate press trips where our writer is allowed a measure of freedom or flexibility to wander around to find their own stories. We do a lot of road trips for our very large Saturday auto section, and press trips can trigger coverage in other sections (with separate freelancer budgets) or a future assignment.
  1. What is your pet peeve when being pitched and/or working with Public Relations Professionals?
    Generally I find PR folks to be very professional, but I don’t always find they have well-crafted pitches or ideas that fit with a Toronto or Canadian readership. With a few, I feel like they have a long list of email addresses and they just hit the button on a generic release – they can then check the box and move on. Less is more for me. Quality pitches make it easier for everyone.

Written by Malcolm Griffiths

Malcolm is Vice President in Development Counsellors International’s Tourism Practice. Since joining DCI from Tourism Australia in 2003, he has developed creative marketing and public relations campaigns to communicate travel experiences for destinations spanning the globe, from California to Sweden, Miami to Tasmania.

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