When it Comes to Covering the News, Who is the Boss?

alg-singer-bruce-springsteen-jpgLately, I’ve been thinking about the evolution of the media and what constitutes media. In its simplest form, the media tells/reports the news. Well, what is news? Again in its simplest form (hey, I know simple; some friends regularly call me simple), news is something that is noteworthy because it affects your head, heart or wallet. It may be newsworthy for one person, but not so much for another.

In this fast-paced, remote control, surf, sound bite society, headlines, teases and  tweets are more about attracting and drawing people in, and less about the true point or takeaway of the story. Not an issue for those who take the time to read, watch or listen to the story, but for those who just digest the appetizer (headline, tease, etc.), you may be getting an inaccurate account that you forward socially.

Wasn’t always this way.

It used to be the news was reported by journalists. Daily. 5pm. 6pm. 11pm. The thinking was they “called it down the middle.”

That begot 24 hour news which led to the need for more content. More content led to diversification. Might not be newsworthy to you or you, but definitely you and you. Not so much down the middle, but for those who it catered to, gospel. Journalists and commentators.

Online and social media. More content. More diversification. More passion and more involvement from you, you, you and me. Even less down the middle and more about first. Economics affecting some journalism. We all cover and forward what we deem to be the news to our friends, colleagues and in many instances people who “if you follow me, I’ll follow you.” In essence, “everyone” reporting the news.

Now, for someone like me, this can cause more than your fair share of challenges. Want to share one.

After my “I’m with the New York Times, Nobody Likes You. I’m on Deadline. Care To Comment?” blog, a former colleague commented:  “Good piece. I have to wonder: In the age of social media, when companies can comment directly to the end audience via social media channels and without the reporter filter, is failure to comment directly to the journalist as big a deal anymore? Not suggesting that social media completely defanged the traditional media; but the new dynamic is intriguing.”

Intriguing, indeed.  That said, I do believe you need to still respond to the media. When appropriate, you can dig deeper by blogging about the topic, posting on Facebook, Tweeting, etc., to get your message/side of the story. In other words, you need to be consistent in responding to the press and addressing your real audience directly through, among many channels, social media.

What you wouldn’t want to happen is not to respond to the reporter and just do your own thing. The reporter/outlet is going to be contradicting or not including your side and that message will reach the initial audience plus ensuing audiences the outlet or reporter may have socially.

Speaking of consistency, your messaging needs to be the same for all audiences – internal and external. Singing one tune to employees but a different externally can/will cause similar issues. Employees are hearing mixed messages and may be sending out contrary points to their social networks.

So, when it comes to covering the news, who is the boss? Not Bruce…not even George Steinbrenner or Tony Danza. Technology allows us all to be our own versions of the 4th Estate without those little “annoyances” of fact-checking or multiple sources. I hope I don’t sound like “old grumpy guy” here, but it is the world we live in now and the role of a public relations person is more critical then ever.


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