Here's How Regular Citizens Can Sell Footage to News Stations

If you think you've got some footage that goes well with a story, here's how to sell it to news stations. Earn some extra money from good content.


Apr. 4 2023, Updated 1:28 p.m. ET

It's pretty common to see content on news stations from non-reporters or those who aren't journalists be credited for contributing to a story at hand, but it isn't always for their writing or reporting. Frequently, media submissions from everyday people are published in some form or another with credit given when it's due. Live news stations, web publications, papers, and more feature imagery and footage that's credited to someone outside their brand.

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Once you know what different news stations are in search of, it's fairly easy to start ramping up your submissions in hopes of earning a payout (and a byline in a publication). If you think you've got some footage that goes well with a story, here's how to sell it to news stations.

Can you sell footage to news stations?

If you've been able to capture footage that feels newsworthy to you or can add some sort of contribution to a recently covered story, news stations are happy to look over your pitches. While major news stations are well-equipped with their own reporters who are poised and ready to catch any breaking stories, reaching out to local stations such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX affiliates to gauge their interest in your work never hurts. Forbes, CNN, AP News, Reuters, and other national outlets also accept tips.

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While it's not 100 percent guaranteed that each and every station will be interested in your submissions, the most common way to submit your footage is through individual outlets. Look under the news station's "About Us" or "Contact Us" page on their website. Calling news desks through official hotline numbers is another way of relaying information about your footage. However, assignment editors won't be able to see what you've got on hand. Most outlets have a tip line or email that expedites the process of getting in touch with them.

What footage are news stations usually looking for?

When it comes down to knowing what footage is usually wanted, think original. News stations don't often advertise what types of submissions they're looking for, but footage that they haven't previously published is a starting point. They'll look for clear audio-visual media that accurately depicts a situation at hand and supplements a potential story. News stations also keep an eye out for a level of newsworthiness of footage being sent in for guest publication.

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Larger trades are usually keen on claiming their own reporting as "exclusive" work, but more local publications are interested in sharing human interest or crime stories relevant to a community. On occasion, news outlets will ask for anyone with more information to reach out. News stations will collect any footage that's deemed relevant to their request, especially footage that can't be obtained elsewhere.

How much will news stations typically pay for footage?

When you think you've got the perfect submission for a news station and you're ready to send it in, there's always the possibility that your content will be published by print media, a web outlet, or seen on the air. How much will news stations typically pay for footage? USA Today claims that "citizen journalists are paid $50 for a video that airs, or $20 for a photo that is used, and also receive on-air attribution."

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Former CNN journalist Kathie McDonald Rost said that she knows people who have been paid "$100–$150 from each station for footage of flooding, lava flows, and wildfires in their area. Sometimes they may want it for 'exclusive' use, and therefore pay more." When it comes down to it, it depends on the station. Each station sets it own rates for citizen journalist contributions.

If you're looking for a bigger payout, consider other means of selling your footage to newsrooms. There are second and third-party applications that will assist in selling your footage while working towards earning you more money in the process.

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