New Journalism 101: Slanted Coverage Is Us?

Posted on November 5, 2010. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

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What about this new journalism that eschews objectivity? It’s not real journalism say some. Journalism is becoming more and more something that is what it is in the eye of the beholder it seems.

The shrill cries against the mainstream media (MSM) — emanating from the farther reaches of all sides of the political spectrum, including the apolitical anarchists — echo throughout the land. People I know on both the left and right are convinced, absolutely convinced, that the so-called mainstream media are comprehensively biased one way or the other.

Even Davy Crockett Knew How To Play The Game

Being in public relations, I can understand their frustrations. Getting your voice heard through the din of the media marketplace is a big problem. But it’s been like that since, what, the invention of the mass media? Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier, had a PR agent. The early Ottoman emperors employed their own scribes to write their accounts of their reigns.

More recently, I’ve worked with clients who were absolutely convinced that they could never get a fair shake in the MSM because of A) their political/religious bent; B) their lack of a powerful advertising budget; C) their ethnicity. In all cases, it wasn’t that the MSM was fundamentally opposed to their side of the story. It was that they needed to first figure out what their story was, and then package it properly and pitch it to the appropriate reporters and editors etc. in a timely fashion. And yes, there was an element of “let’s hope for the best,” as there always is when you’re asking someone to do something for you.

I’m not saying that the MSM isn’t ever biased. That’s just not realistic. But in general, if you’ve got a good story to tell, there’s usually a way to get it told through the news media.

Dogs Do It, Editorialists Do It…

Look, it feels good to have a platform to air your views, the bigger the better as Keith Olbermann and every other media commentator with a license to be opinionated knows. (I’m reminded of my pup days in journalism, when one of the newspaper’s grand old editors advised me to keep in mind that writing an editorial was a lot like a dog pissing on its hind legs, it felt so good to the dog that it didn’t care what kind of mess it created.)

But most reporters, and most editors, are still looking for the good story first and foremost within the constraints of whatever particular outlet they happen to be working for at the time. Not to say that bias doesn’t happen. But persistence and some degree of knowing how to package a story, as well as cultivate the media’s attention, still goes a long way in getting information through the gate and into the promised land of MSM news coverage.

And no, the odds are that the media are not going to do a free ad for you. You’ve really got to have news, or at least one heck of a good angle.

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