Planning to share some information with a reporter or editor, or trying to interest him or her in a story? You’ll be more likely to succeed if you start by asking a very simple question.

That question would be “Is this a good time?”

The reason is that reporters and editors typically wage a constant battle with deadlines they can’t move. If the paper has to be on press by eight p.m., their copy might have to be in by three. No exceptions. If they’re on deadline, they’re struggling to get the work completed before that time. They don’t want to be interrupted. Choose to interrupt them, and if you don’t manage to irritate them, you probably won’t get their full attention. While you’re wasting precious minutes telling them about your earthshattering news, their eyes and brain will be focused on the screen in front of them, trying to edit while you talk.

Ask the question, and you demonstrate respect. If it is a good time, you’ll almost always get their full attention. If they say no, quickly ask when would be a better time, and call back then. Even the most grizzled reporter or editor appreciates that kind of courtesy, and they’ll remember you positively.