Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Six Challenges for Journalists

Let me preface this post by saying that I have 10 years in Public Relations, a degree in Journalism and some experience as a newspaper reporter. In other words, I've got the cred to have an opinion.
So, since I have devoted what will likely be a fourth of my work life to working with the media and I truly have a heart for the work journalists do every day, here we go. Read on...

Six Challenges for Journalists

1. Be Honest. You expect the truth from sources. Be upfront with what you know and where you get your information from(if possible). PR people have a bad rap for being dishonest and so do journalists. We both need to reflect on why the public feels this way and work to gain back their trust.

2. Be Professional. If you use foul language or are abusive to members of a source's staff, they do not have to accept this behavior. The media are the first to shine a light on any public figure behaving unprofessionally, but I have encountered much of the same behavior from reporters. It is just embarrassing for the profession. Those in charge should correct, and not encourage, this type of behavior. Please don't give people more ammo to justify the negative stereotype of reporters.

3. Be Respectful of the Other Person's Schedule. Many reporters have told me that any individual should drop whatever they are doing to talk to the media. To say this is to say that communicating via the media is everyone's most important duty. I do not want my local Fire Chief to have the media as his first priority. Sorry, I just don't. To be clear, I am not advocating dodging of media. This is bad practice, as well.

4. Admit You are Part of the Conversation. Television news viewership and newspaper readership is down and dropping. Consumers are rapidly turning to other sources for their information. The attitude that an organization needs to cater to the media is waning. The media simply does not hold all the cards anymore. The information environment is extremely diverse and complex. Figure out how you fit in and play that role.

5. Embrace Change. Meet Rick Sanchez, CNN anchor. He's fully embraced Twitter (@ricksanchezcnn). The remarkable thing about Rick's interaction is that he actively references user comments on his daily show and most recently from the beach during Hurricane Ike. Also, and I would say most importantly, he is not afraid to insert his personality into the news. This does not mean a surrender of impartiality, but it does mean to keep it interesting. Why do most regular people get their news from each other or entertainment-oriented sources like Limbaugh, Stewart or Letterman?

6. Add to the Conversation. Our country is currently bankrupt - economically sure, but also of ideas and inspiration. Journalists have a voice. Use that voice to be an agent for the common good. Exposing corruption is just part of your job as I see it, but is not the entire picture. What about adding fuel to fires that will benefit society as a whole?

Photo gracias: ShutterCat7.

3 comments:

Richie said...

Terry, I like where you are going with this. Also, that you aren't afraid to ruffle a few feathers. My favorite is #4 today's media marketplace is slowly waking up to the new realities of their place in the greater dialogue. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

proreportertips.com said...

Terry, I'm right with you on this. In fact, after seeing blog after blog on "Bad PR," I decided to start http://ProReporterTips.com, a take off on Rafe Needleman's ProPRTips.

I'd love to post some of your challenges as future tips if you don't mind, (with link back to you, of course).

Terry Morawski said...

Thanks for the feedback. Feel free to post with links, as you suggested. I checked out your site and I like it. Thanks again.