February 19, 2009
/ by jay.krall
Here’s how you can help them
In the summer of 2002, I was trying to explain to a colleague who had worked at newspapers for more than 30 years a new online phenomenon known as the Weblog. It’s a tool for keeping an online journal, I told him, that allows you to post short, frequent bits of news and commentary. You write the news as it happens, rather than organizing it into one story per day. “It’s almost like opening up your notebook to the public while you’re reporting a story,” I said.
He peered at me over the top of his glasses and said: “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
How times have changed. A new study from PWR New Media says 60 percent of journalists now contribute to a blog or Web site, and more than a third of them have taken on the responsibility in the past year. The survey included 215 journalists across all types of media.
As we’ve chronicled on this “Weblog”, the newspaper business and media in general have come a long way in utilizing blogs. Seven years ago, of course, few media sites had blogs; I first discovered them while researching a story about a growing Internet rumor (since debunked) that Jose Padilla, the American citizen who was convicted of aiding al Qaeda, had been involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. It seemed to me at the time that blogs were primarily the province of conspiracy theorists.
But again, times change. Cision’s media database contains listings of more than 2,000 blogs affiliated with newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets, amongst thousands of independent blogs as well. But how can we work with journalists to help them adapt to their new responsibilities for online content?
To be fair, my curmudgeonly colleague had a point: journalists still have a duty to get both sides of the story as best they can before posting to a blog, just as they would for a longer piece. Think about what kind of information can you provide in your press releases to help them deliver the news faster. Suggestions for a secondary source can help. So can providing relevant links that can be copied directly into a blog post. Interestingly, the PWR New Media survey quotes responses from journalists who say the growth in online news means that more than ever, they need high-resolution photos provided with e-mailed releases (yeah, Cision helps with that too). One thing hasn’t changed: thinking like a journalist, whatever the medium, can always help you land a story.
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