Politics & Media Mashup: your weekend news aggregator leads off with a look at the reporter-to-PR shift. Also included: Links to some of the week’s best stories about local, state and national politics as well as social and traditional media.
Jeff Light, executive editor at U-T San Diego, is concerned about the reporter-to-PR shift. So concerned that he put together this chart showing how much things have changed.
I’ve been to two breakfast forums recently, including one on Wednesday hosted by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, that featured Light as a speaker. He brought his chart to both events. At the Taxpayers’ breakfast, Light closed by saying the increase in government PR professionals “is a story the public should be aware of.”
Since 2003, according to Light’s chart, the reporter to government spokesperson ratio has shifted from 4-to-1 to 2-to-1, and he thinks we’re headed to 1-to-1. He also thinks there will be a correction, meaning government PR professionals should expect to see fewer opportunities and more pink slips.
Fewer reporters and more media relations professionals is a bad thing in Light’s world. I get that, but I don’t agree there will be a correction. If anything, I think we will continue to see a shift toward more communications experts.
Nothing is ever going to completely replace top-notch news and feature stories written by veteran reporters, but let’s be honest — newspapers, and even TV and radio news stations, aren’t what they used to be.
Along with fewer reporters and editors, news holes (space earmarked for stories and not ads) are smaller than ever. Online news sites like voiceofsandiego.org have presented alternatives to traditional news outlets but most of those sites are struggling, too.
The problem is just about anyone can be a publisher now, meaning advertisers have a sea of choices. Add to that the explosion of social media, including Twitter, and blogs and it’s easy to see why politicians, government agencies, businesses and non-profits have hired so many former journalists to help take their message directly to their audience. The days of relying exclusively on the daily newspaper to reach the public (and smaller media operations who use the paper as a source) are long gone.
Locally, the U-T’s financial troubles have been a boon to the PR/media relations industry. Some of the paper’s former reporters, such as Jennifer Davies, Rachel Laing and Alex Roth, work at City Hall. They take calls from reporters, develop talking points, write op-eds, and use the web to deliver their boss’s message.
I do the very same for my clients. I understand how valuable former reporters and editors can be to people who deal with the media but have never been inside a newsroom. Before starting my own business, I worked at City Hall. That was after 13 years in newspapers, including about four at the U-T.
As for Light’s research — it drew swift reaction on Twitter during and after the Taxpayers’ breakfast.
Reporters “have no bandwidth to cover anything but “failure” stories,” tweeted Laing, press secretary for Mayor Jerry Sanders. “Who’s talking about what’s WORKING?”
Laing then tweeted that when she was a reporter she had the time to cover positive civic developments and did so. Greg Moran, a longtime U-T reporter, then tweeted: “And they were so memorable, too.”
Panelists at the breakfast disagreed on whether good news is worth reporting.
Light said the paper strives for a balance between good and bad news. Deanna Mackey, station manager at KPBS, said the station’s most popular stories are the ones about people. Scott Lewis, the CEO at Voice of San Diego, said in a world of rapidly growing PR pros delivering good news his site can’t afford to focus on anything other than hard-edge investigations.
“Media is going through an incredible change, disruption and correction right now,” Lewis told the crowd.
Here is a roundup of some of the best stories of the week: