How to Best Navigate the Changing Journalism Terrain

Despite the explosion in social media and other online channels, media relations remain a cornerstone of effective public relations.

At the same time, in a digital age pitching editors and reporters requires a different toolkit than in the analog age (when picking up a telephone and knocking out a press release were the main choices for PR pros looking to get a story out).

A new report may provide a blueprint for PR pros on how to navigate the changing terrain in journalism. But, from our standpoint, it also reinforces some PR disciplines that transcend technology.

The report, titled “Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present,” was released by Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism.

The 122-page report was produced C.W. Anderson, assistant professor in the Department of Media Culture at the College of Staten Island; Emily Bell, director of Tow Center for Digital Journalism and Clay Shirky, an assistant arts professor in the New Media at New York University.

Here are some bites from the study that we think are most salient to PR pros looking to get a better grip on how the term “pitching stories” is changing:

  • “The changes in the news ecosystem are not just a story about erosion, however. Even as the old monopolies vanish, there is an increase in the amount of journalistically useful work to be achieved through collaboration with amateurs, crowds and machines."
  • “The journalist has not been replaced but displaced, moved higher up the editorial chain from the production of initial observations to a role that emphasizes verification and interpretation, bringing sense to the streams of text, audio, photos and video produced by the public.”
  • “New areas of accountability are emerging. One question journalists and news institutions need to involve themselves in is: ‘What are you doing with my data?’ It might not matter who is a journalist, except to the person disclosing information to a journalist.”

In the past, PR pros dealt with relatively fixed universe of journalists. No more. As the report indicates, the social sphere has greatly expanded who calls herself a journalist.

The definitions may change, of course, but for PR execs some things never go out of style when trying to get a story across the plate: making sure the story is relevant to the journalist’s audience; being transparent in how you communicate with people whose website, media brands, broadcast outlets, etc., can be a vehicle toward getting your message in front of the right people and taking pains to cultivate those relationships for the long-term.

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  • Barbara Stanley

    The way I see it, the army of journalists has grown exponentially. They may not all be talented, credible or useful, but there is now a wealth of information available to the serious journalist.