Getting Under the Gray Lady’s Skin (In A Good Way)

Page One: Inside the New York Times

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I recently watched “Page One: Inside the New York Times” on Netflix. Great movie. Watch it.

It’s a documentary-style film about what goes on at the City’s paper of record – warts and all – and casts the guys at the Media Desk (the reporters who cover the media as an industry) in the starring roles: Brian Stelter, David Carr, Bruce Hedlam and Richard Perez Pena are all interesting and fun to watch.

While talking about everything from newsroom layoffs to WikiLeaks, they’re also terrifically candid about the future of newspapers, the news business and the stuff that goes into being a reporter in this new world of social and digital media. Short story: it ain’t easy.

I came away from the film with a renewed sense of awe for the pressure that good journalists put on themselves for getting a story right.

I’ve spent my share of years in a newsroom, all on the broadcast side, here in New York, and so the documentation of how any news product gets made takes me back to that fun, crazy time. I really don’t think people know what goes into producing a newspaper, an evening newscast or great news radio. If they did, they wouldn’t take it all so much for granted.

It also amazes me that it’s possible to create something like the New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post or other printed publication) on a daily basis. From the reporting and editing to the physical printing and distribution of the papers to a geographic area that stretches to the four corners of the Earth (no kidding), it is an astonishing feat. It actually shouldn’t be possible, I think.

The other thought that washed over me as I watched the interplay between these reporters and the stories they were chasing is how we as PR people can best interact with them.

Reporters volunteer to produce a tangible product on a daily – and in the case of broadcast and now social media, sometimes hourly – basis, pledging to get it 100% right every time. For those times they do make a mistake, there’s the public humiliation of the correction in the next day’s paper or the on-camera apology. And they get paid tons of money (insert sarcasm here) for the privilege. Like I said, it ain’t easy.

Respecting the job reporters need to do – and the hoops through which they have to jump, including deadlines, fact checking and multiple layers of necessarily naysaying editors – and being considerate of those obstacles is so important to the relationship we build with them. Doing so gets us further toward our goal of spreading our clients’ messages.

We PR folk are kind of like multi-lingual translators: assigned to convert the languages spoken by journalists and by our clients into a shared dialogue they can both understand. We need to be clear, deliberate and respectful of the needs of everyone involved at all times.

By putting yourself in their position, you can be a better PR person, and connect more often with reporters who are in interested in what you have to say.

Gee, this is starting to sound like a “5 Things” list. Guess I better get writing that one.


2 thoughts on “Getting Under the Gray Lady’s Skin (In A Good Way)

  1. Jody – I wish every publicist had your journalistic background………..and integrity. I wish every “blogger” tried to “get it right” ethically.

    I agree with every word here………we each can only do our best and hope that it’s enough to make up for those who don’t. 😉

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