Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tour of The Detroit News

As part of an internship activity yesterday I had the opportunity to take a tour of The Detroit News newsroom. Our host, Mark Truby, business editor at the paper, was more than accomodating when it came to answering our questions and showing us around. Upon entering the actual newsroom we were greeted by piles of different newspapers, stacks of various books, a large collection of Pez dispensers and an even larger collection of bobble head dolls.

One of the interns in our group asked Mark what he thought the future of the newspaper business looked like. Mark replied that while the paper's circulation had decreased (as I'm sure is the case with the majority of the papers around the country), readership had actually increased due to more people reading online. Mark also made a point of saying that news still has value today, and that mass media makes money from the masses. They want to print the news that will sell papers and capture those "impulse buyers" who may buy a paper simply from what they see "above the fold." This has some serious implications to PR practitioners who often engage in "pitching" news to the newspapers. It's important that we not only pitch news, but pitch news that will sell papers. This is a self-interest of journalists that I have never thought of before.

We also had the opportunity to speak with another editor and to get her opinion on what are the best and worst ways for PR people to work with print media. She told us that the most helpful PR people are those who understand what journalists do and allow themselves or their client to be accessible to the media as much as possible. She recommended that we do all we can to help the journalist get the story he/she wants.

One thing she told us to beware of is something I've heard before: stop blanketing journalists with news releases. I've always been taught that doing this is a bad PR practice, but she put a new spin on it for me. By inundating journalists with news releases some of the really important, newsworthy information may be lost in the mix. She also recommended shortening releases and maybe even just bulleting the information out so they can read through it quickly. It seems the news release is becoming an increasingly irrelevant part of the PR industry.

It was a great experience to visit The Detroit News and see more of the behind-the-scenes work that goes on in a newsroom. Now I want to visit a broadcast news studio! I recommend that all budding public relations professionals take some time to tour their local newsroom and visit with the journalists.

2 comments:

Chris said...

Good post. A couple things:
If I thought about trying to get my story above the fold for every pitch I sent out, I'd go nuts. Think about how hard it must be to get above the fold. A newspaper has a lot of pages, but only half of one is above the fold. Also, it's not our job to sell newspapers. Sometimes we have really solid news, but most of the time we don't. Interesting stuff about the PR person who cried wolf (stop blanketing journalists with news releases). I had never thought of it that way before.

maverick9465 said...

Chris,

You bring up a good point about it not being our job sell papers. Nor is it possible to craft every pitch in such a way that it would appear above the fold. I think just hearing Mark's comments in this vein helped me understand more the job journalists have to do.

Thanks for reading!