It was 50 years ago this week that CBS debuted “The Evening News with Walter Cronkite.”
The state of TV news, in fact all news, has changed since that first broadcast… some for better, some for worse.
Since 1962, the nation has gone from three nightly newscasts to those plus cable networks like CNN, Headline News and MSNBC, specialized information cable networks, ESPN, FSN, local cable networks.
A city having an early and a late newspaper is pretty much a thing of the past, but with the immediacy of the Internet, we have a number of news choices not available half a century ago. I’m not even mentioning even more narrow-casted publications like TechTarget or InformationWeek or the hundreds of others covering a myriad of topics.
Having all this news is great because we can access information anywhere, anytime.
Of course it’s also bad, because we can access information anywhere, anytime.
With that much information rambling around, what’s fact, what’s hyperbole and what’s just plain lies?
Journalists have more to do with less these days. The drive for more information keeps them busy. In TV, reporters have morning shows, noon newscasts, then possibly a 4pm or 4:30pm to go along with the tradition 5pm & 6pm shows before the “late local news.”
With newspapers, while they’re putting out less column inches in paper, they’re making up for it with bytes and blogs online.
What does this all have to do with public relations? Well, this change is also an opportunity. More news often means more information (although it can also mean an obsession with the same information over and over). PR pros and journalists approach information from differing directions. For newsies, its all about fairness and fact. For PR folks, it’s about truth… facts with a point of view.
As professional communicators, as long as we’re not forcing our own (or our client’s) views down the throats of reporters and editors, the more responsive they will be to our information. We have to give them info that is correct and relevant. This is paramount. If we screw that up, that relationship can be over in a millisecond… if not less.
In the spirit of good journalist relationships, here are some simple insights to help get you on the same page as a journalist you’re approaching:
- Be Relevant (and mentioned before)
- Get to the point
- Know your subject-matter
- Ask if there’s any information for a future story you can help provide
- Smile (yes, they can’t see you but that smile actually does come through. Just don’t be TOO syrupy sweet! Fine lines and all.)
The takeaway: journalists can make use of the help we offer, as long as we’re offering something useful, fair and true.
On a personal note, I was fortunate to meet Cronkite, who I consider one of my journalistic heroes (along with the late Tim Russert.)
Not everyone loved Uncle Walter of course, including some inside the business. But I watched him as I grew up and I have a great respect for who he was and how he did his job: strong, almost entirely unwavering, emotional in a time when a nation needed healing, and most of all, trusted.
Working in public relations, these are traits I try to exude, especially being trusted.
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