Each week I normally share a handful of articles or blog posts of interest as they cross my Twitter stream.
But this week I found myself overwhelmed by the dozens of tweets about abuses against members of the media covering the anti-government protests in Cairo, Egypt.
It’s difficult to articulate how news like this affects me.
Although my career path has taken a different turn, I still have a profound respect for any journalist who willingly goes into a war zone or crisis situation in order to report the news.
On Wednesday, this tweet immediately got my attention:
Anderson Cooper is no stranger to reporting from war zones, but it still struck me that no member of the media was spared.
It all went downhill quickly from there.
Another tweet from @NickKristof of the New York Times suggested the violence against the media was somehow organized:
More tweets came through, warning of pro-government gangs targeting members of the press:
Then, there was this absolutely chilling tweet from @allawati:
By Thursday, news had gotten out that other prominent news anchors like Christiane Amanpour and Katie Couric were not spared getting roughed up in an attempt to intimidate the foreign press.
There were countless additional alarming tweets, like @RSF_RWB describing the systematic crack down:
Or this one from @MrMediaTraining:
I can’t even begin to describe how disheartening it is to see real-time updates like these on an issue so near and dear to my heart—that of free expression and a free press.
It’s important to remember that attacks against the media don’t always occur in times of war and chaos.
Attacks against the media can take the form of an unjust imprisonment, government intimidation, or outright censorship of a news story.
CPJ and RSF, as well as international human rights organizations, do a great service to document and speak out against all violations against the media year-round.
Any time I read about abuses against the media, it reminds me to not take for granted the many freedoms we are afforded in the United States.
Whew! Who needs a good laugh for sticking with me through this post?
Here’s something that always makes me laugh, and it’s fitting for the dramatic tone of this post.
Remember the choral arrangement of Radiohead’s “Creep” that was used in the trailer for “The Social Network”?
Here’s a video showing how that song makes anything dramatic, even famous YouTube sensations (although they sorely missed including Chocolate Rain):
Pitching media and public relations go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Any client or company with a PR function understands that getting free (or “earned”) media coverage goes a long way in building reputation and awareness.
While media pitches brings to mind the big-wig names (who doesn’t want their pixellated image on the cover of the Wall Street Journal?), I’d like to pose a simple plea to PR folks everywhere: Support your local community press!
The next time you’re building a media pitch list or prepping for a significant media push for your client/company, consider if the information is also relevant to the local community press.
Why should you care about the community press?
Despite the popularity of digital media, people still read newspapers.
And even more comforting is the fact that people are still reading their local community newspapers.
A recent survey by the National Newspaper Association found that 73 percent of those surveyed read their local newspaper at least once a week. The NNA survey also found that those readers often share their paper with an average of three other people–talk about word of mouth.
There are also numerous ethnic community newspapers available throughout major metropolitan cities.
Hispanic weekly and less than weekly newspapers have risen over the past couple of years, although the number of Hispanic daily newspapers has declined.
But despite the rosy picture, community newspapers are not without the strains to advertising dollars and declining circulation at the major press.
What does this mean for PR pros?
I admit I have a slight bias having worked at community newspapers in the past. I know these papers have a value to the neighborhoods and communities they cover.
But I believe it’s worth the exercise to consider community newspapers on your next media list if the information is relevant to a specific neighborhood or community issue.
I stress only if it’s relevant to the community you’re pitching because most community papers can’t be bothered with garbage that takes up their news or advertising space. They shouldn’t be treated as rinky-dink operations just because they only publish once a week.
To become familiar with the community’s interests, it helps if you obtain a copy of the community newspaper you’re considering and read its past coverage.
Also, when working with ethnic community papers, consider the cultural and linguistic barriers to reaching their audience. It helps to have a press release or event announcement already translated so their editors or reporters can more readily print it.
The end result, if you have a pitch that garners space in the community paper, is that you make a connection to their readers and thus, that community.
It’s not a magic bullet to your next media pitch plan, but exploring your options in the community press doesn’t hurt.
Community papers turn up on our doorsteps without subscription each week, offering a glimpse into the micro-local news scene.
I believe PR can do good work in supporting them with relevant community-geared information so that they, in turn, can continue to provide information at the door-to-door level.
There’s been considerable talk of death lately.
While I shrug at the notion of the Web and the press release being “dead,” the idea that the news is dead struck a chord with me. And the fact that Ted Koppel delivered this message – a man I consider one of the last bastions of real, hard news journalism – made it resonate even more.
I would have missed Mr. Koppel’s op-ed that ran on Sunday had it not been for Geoff Livingston who wrote a touching eulogy to journalism on his blog that popped up on my Google Reader. Geoff’s post sparked a feeling of melancholy for me.
Journalism is something that touches me to the core. It’s a profession for which I have always had the utmost respect, sparked in the eighth grade and continuing to this day.
For many reasons, I feel that journalism will always be a part of what I do in my professional career. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how my background in print journalism enriches my public relations career and how I respect objectivity in news reporting.
Which is why I believe that Mr. Koppel is 100% right about his conclusion– the cycle of commentary-driven news programming and the news-for-profit mindset are killing the real news.
Mr. Koppel put it eloquently by describing the old form of news reporting, where fact-finding and diligent storytelling were key, as the Eden of journalism.
We’ve already bitten from the apple of partisan reporting and color commentary, so that sanctuary will forever be a memory for those who can remember.
But this isn’t all doom and gloom.
While the real news may be dead in some respects, it is not certainly forgotten, nor do I believe it can completely disappear altogether. Many reporters, in broadcast, print, and online, still carry the torch and uphold the hallmarks of what makes journalism a respectable profession.
As long as the written word persists, and there is a need for information and a desire to learn, journalism will always have a place in our society.
Anyone else have a eulogy or an anecdote to share about their thoughts on journalism? Does this have implications for public relations moving forward?
One of my favorite past times is reading The Bad Pitch Blog for pitch horror stories. Okay, it’s more of a guilty pleasure, as long as one of my pitches doesn’t end up on it.
It may be a little extreme to post the bad pitches, but it’s important to call them out in order to learn how to improve media relations.
From my experience so far conducting media outreach, and in reading various articles and blog posts from both journalists and PR folks, I’ve gathered that it often boils down to common sense.
Here are a few of my recommendations for this approach to media relations:
- Do your homework - get to know the reporter’s beat by reading their past articles. Don’t take a title listed in some media database at face value. Reading their past coverage or blog posts will clue you into trends they are interested in. You can then build a better pitch based on their interests and provide a resource for them.
- Build a relationship – if at first you don’t succeed, learn how to succeed the next time around. Keep notes of your emails or phone conversations with a reporter for future use. Remember what they like and dislike; write them a personal note now and then to see what they’re working on. This will demonstrate that you are listening to their feedback by going back to them with a pitch they can use.
- Know when to back off – do not, for any reason or any client, “steam roll” a reporter for coverage because it will get you nowhere. If they haven’t returned your emails or phone messages for a week or more, it’s likely they never will. It’s better to back off, go back to the drawing board, and evaluate if your pitch was appropriate or tailored enough based on their interests.
- Be polite - the best thing a reporter ever told me was to introduce myself on the phone before pitching the story. He said his mother told him it was impolite to start a conversation before making an introduction. Same goes with a pitch – introduce yourself and ask if it’s a good time to talk. The last thing you want to do is go right into it and risk getting rejected due to poor manners. Most reporters may appreciate the easy out, or may tell you when to call at a better time.
With more and more reporters on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it’s even easier to learn about their interests and approach them when you have a good resource. Pay attention to the little things and listen to your common sense.
Do you have any experience with building relationships with the media? What has worked for you? Reporters, are there any pet peeves to add to this list?