Public relations and newspapers

Still trying to attract the attention of the wizard of search engine optimization. Maybe he/she doesn’t consider public relations important enough of a subject to highlight in the blogosphere. Or maybe she/he has public relations confused with marketing. Like most people these days.

I’ll keep writing and plugging away. In fact, I’ve had several hundred visitors (does this mean readers?) to this blog since I started a week ago. And I guess that’s not bad since my sense is that no one really wants to read anymore, either in print or online. Even the Queen of England has joined the YouTube generation.

I know that students in my classes don’t read the dead-tree version of newspapers. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe Lauren Rich Fine (see my blogroll) does. At the start of every semester I ask students – generally 40 or so in total — in my classes at Kent State a few questions. How many of you read the print edition of a newspaper daily? Maybe 4 or 5. (Remember, these are journalism students.) How many get news from the Internet? (Twenty or 30) How many watch local TV news? (Twenty or 30) Network TV news? (Say what?) The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report? (Almost all – wahoo.) That’s not the kind of research that earns you tenure. But it probably is ever bit as enlightening as some of the academic research reports.

I on the other hand love to read the print editions of newspapers. I went out in the rain (after running in the rain) this morning to get the Sunday edition of The New York Times. I’ve been reading that paper even more regularly for the past year or so, ever since the Akron Beacon Journal stopped publishing. (Just kidding. I still scan the ABJ each morning. It only takes a few minutes. Actually, I’ve read the ABJ every morning for almost 40 years. It used to be an excellent paper. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with many talented and dedicated reporters and editors there, including Ron Kirksey, now a friend and colleague at Kent State.) The Plain Dealer in Cleveland is regaining its position as a must-read newspaper, certainly in Northeast Ohio, under the direction of recently named editor Susan Goldberg.

It’s important for those of us in public relations to read newspapers and understand the news media in general. And it doesn’t matter if we read in print or online. Just read. I hope we don’t get away from teaching effective, responsible and ethical media relations in the rush to understand and use YouTube, podcasting, blogs, MySpace, Facebook and dare it say it, search engine optimization. We need the next generation of public relations professionals to know how to best work with reporters and editors and why it is important. And we also need to help students gain skills in writing, video and audio. That’s the way of the world these days, for those in journalism and public relations.

One of the courses that we require of our public relations majors at Kent State is called Print Beat Reporting. Here PR students spend a semester covering a beat on campus and writing stories for the Daily Kent Stater. The result. They see that some sources are pathetic when it comes to working with reporters: no return phone calls or e-mails, not prepared for interviews, etc. That helps our students become better public relations practitioners. They learn how not to do it. And they learn how to research, interview and write for publication. Bill Sledzik offers an interesting perspective on the emphasis that PRKent places on writing in his blog, ToughSledding.

Well, it’s time to start reading The New York Times. The Browns are playing the Bengals this afternoon. Good grief. Wonder what’s on C-SPAN?

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2 responses to “Public relations and newspapers

  1. As a runner and a PR student, I enjoy reading your blog and learning from your insights about the field.

    This was a great post showing how critical it is for PR students to understand traditional media and journalism. It definitely gave me a wake-up call.

    Take care and Happy Holidays!

  2. Meg,

    Thanks for your comment. A runner and a PR student. It doesn’t get much better than that. Well, OK, it will be even better when you graduate and begin your successful career in public relations. I hope you continue to read this blog — and comment often. I really believe that the perspective that you and others have as students and future PR professionals is really valuable and beneficial to all of us.

    Happy Holidays.

    Rob

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