Playing with the state of journalism

state_of_playOver the weekend, I saw State of Play. I was eagerly anticipating seeing it on the big screen after reading this review.

The thing that really intrigued me about State of Play is the perspective it took on old vs. new media in the world of journalism. Sitting in the theatre, I started to think the film’s writer may just be a fan of newsprint over Internet. 

Russel Crowe’s character was the driving figure in the film, even if the character was a stereotypical print reporter. Crowe’s co-star, Rachel McAdams, was the hip, up-and-coming blogger on the on-line side of the big daily. Just like Crowe’s character being depicted as an experienced reporter/junk-food eating slob, the way McAdam’s character was initially framed in the story epitomizes the belief that bloggers aren’t “real” reporters. Right away, she was painted as someone who wrote fluff and gossip pieces and didn’t do hard news.

Then, and this is the part that I really liked,  the big story hit and Crowe and McAdams worked as a team to break it. As this story arc developed, the battle to deconstruct the stereotypes ensued. By the end, Crowe’s  “old dog” had laid the foundation and helped to educate McAdam’s “up-and-comer” in the fine art of real, hard news reporting.

As far as I can tell, the movie was trying to do two things where journalism is concerned. It was editorializing that there is still value in hard news reporting done by the well-connected, experienced print journalist. It was also trying to change the tide regarding the perception that on-line journalists (re: bloggers) aren’t reporting real news.

In addtion, there was an underlying, continuous swipe being taken at the practice that is occurring all too often these days–the corporate takeover of the newspaper business.

All in all, the film was a great philosphical argument about the future of journalism. It was tied together with some fantastic cinematography and a decent amount of thrilling plot twists.

I’d give it an 8 out of 10. I’d watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

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Pushing pause

Sometimes in life you have to step back and take an inventory. This week has been one of those times. So, no posts this week. Stick with me, though. There will be more next week. Thanks for reading!

~t

In crisis, communicate

Tragedies, like a recent suicide in a local high school, often produce more questions than answers.

Watching the coverage of this event unfold, I was very interested in two things:

  1. The way the school district implemented it’s crisis communication plan
  2. The media’s decision making process in covering the suicide

The district held a news conference with local and state law enforcement. They sent out an automated phone message to parents. The school’s Superintendent was interviewed throughout the day talking about the response and the work done by the staff to carry out the crisis plan in an effective manner.

I think, given the circumstances, what happened at the school immediately following the incident was a good example of implementing a crisis plan with a calm head during a moment of utter chaos. Adding a message about what happened and where to get more information to the district’s Web site would be the only improvement I would suggest.

However, on the distirct’s site now there’s a message from the superintendent that captures the mood of the community and proposes the next steps to take in the healing process.

As far as the media goes, I was intrigued at how reporters and media outlets used Twitter to draw people’s attention to their coverage. In particular, an executive news producer used tweets to point people to a post she wrote outlining her station’s reasons for covering the suicide but not releasing the name.

To me, this is a great way for the media to let its audience behind the curtain during a time of crisis. Providing such open access to normally privileged information promotes a sense of trust among a media outlet’s audience that will go a long way to increasing audience loyalty down the road.

In the end, both the school district and the media got the communication aspects of this crisis right. It just goes to show that keeping the lines of communicaiton open is one of the best ways to deescalate a crisis.

One step closer

logo_apr_601A little less than a year ago, I applied and was accepted to begin the process to become Accredited in Public Relations (APR). I began this journey in hopes that it will help me advance my career. It has given me much more.

Undergoing this process has taught me the value of Public Relations and why planning is so vitally important to any successful PR campaign.

PR is more than trying to promote a person or product in the media (press agentry). It is more than just informing the public about something that a government body thinks is important. Public relations is, and always will be, the means for any organization to communicate with its publics by creating a two-way dialogue that creates mutually beneficial relationships.

In other words, PR is the action that allows people and organizations to form, build, and maintain relationships though communicating and finding common interests.

There are a lot of people out there that think people in the PR business are on par with used car salesmen–sleazy, sneaky, self-interested slime balls. The truth is there are good people in PR working hard to foster positive relationships everyday. Their work goes unnoticed most times because the bad apples get the attention.

But it is their work, and the planning that went into it, that has helped countless organizations reach out to their publics. And it is their work that has given the publics the means to offer feedback that really matters and makes a difference.

Planning for PR includes research that enables the PR pro to learn about the desires, wants, needs, worries, etc. of the intended audicences/publics. I’ve learned that doing the research step right takes a lot of effort, but that it’s effort which pays off in the end.

When I decided to go for the APR, I didn’t make the decision lightly. I put a lot of thought into it. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure if going through the process would help me achieve my goal. I was wrong to think that. The APR process has been time consuming, but through it I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about what it means to be a PR professional.

 And now, having  been given the approval to move forward and schedule the exam, I’m one step closer to being able to say that I am Accredited in Public Relations.