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How to Make the Job of a Journalist Easier

How to Make the Job of a Journalist Easier

[By Tannette Johnson-Elie]

In today’s era of digital news, journalists are under increasing pressure to produce more and their jobs are made more difficult when public relations professionals fail to deliver the resources they need to tell the best story.

According to recent surveys, an overwhelming majority of journalists are displeased with the lack of quality content they receive from PR professionals and must work harder to put together a story as a result of incomplete or substandard press materials.

Just ask Maudlyne Ihejirika, urban affairs reporter and assistant city editor for the Chicago Sun-Times. She says her job has become increasingly difficult in the past five years due to downsizing in the newspaper industry and the rise of the Internet as a news platform.

“Your newsroom is 30% of what it was 10 years ago and so, each body is expected to fill the void and do the job of two, sometimes three individuals,” said Ihejirika, a 25-year Sun-Times employee and one of Chicago’s most prominent journalists. “My job isn’t just writing a news story. It’s taking photographs for that story, creating video, editing those two visual contents and posting them, along with my written content, on the web and on social media. Against the backdrop of all this, my days have become typical, 10-hour days.”

Like Ihejirika, most journalists say they are under increasing pressure to crank out stories more quickly in a 24/7, social media-driven news cycle.

“My inbox has 16,000 emails. It becomes critical that press releases flooding our inboxes be complete, be well-written and include all the aspects of a news story that a reporter is going to require,” Ihejirika said. “What are the graphic possibilities? Who’s going to be photographed? What are the video possibilities? That press release has to be chock-full of information.”

So what can you do as a PR professional to make the job of a journalist easier and increase your media coverage?

Tell the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when’ and, most important, the ‘why’ of the story and don’t bury your content under locked-down websites, numerous emails, Dropbox and manual requests – all “enthusiasm-killers.”

“The why (of the story) is more important than ever,” says Ihejirika. “Why should I care today? Why should my readers care today? News is 24 hours. I’m looking for the easy fish in the sea because there’s no time.”

Also, develop a working relationship with the journalist you’re interested in pitching and do research to understand what that person covers and what his or her specific needs are.

Finally, focus on quality and not quantity when it comes to pitching the media.

Given the sheer number of stories that journalists now are required to produce on a weekly basis, PR professionals must use tools that make it easier for their newsroom counterparts to access content and put together a complete story.  In the end, PR pros that learn to deliver quality content will get the best coverage.

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