January 19, 2019

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Guide to PR Week’s Media Survey 2008

Guide to PR Week’s Media Survey 2008

The sub headline in Frank Washkush’s *PR Week*’s Media Survey 2008 is pretty darned appropriate: “A State of Transition.” He described how “old media” is attempting to adapt to “new media” and where the two meet – and sometimes clash. Old school vs. new school. NYTimes.com vs. “The Gray Lady.” NPR vs. podcasts. Yep. The transition is already here.
This topic is of particular interest to me especially because the title of the course that I teach at [Georgetown University](http://scs.georgetown.edu/) is “The Intersection of Online and Offline Public Relations” – and also that of [my new blog](http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com/). One of the reasons why I got into teaching “at the intersection” was because I saw graduate and undergraduate programs either churning out techies or PR gurus, and little in-between.
**The Survey**
The *PR Week* article/survey contains some items that I agree with wholeheartedly and others that make me sit and scratch my head. Among the major findings are that “new media” (I hate that term – I hardly think that blogging is “new”) has impacted traditional print in a variety of ways, including:
**Immediacy**: If you think that 24-hour cable networks sped up the news cycle, then online news and bloggers have driven it into hyper speed. In the article, Scott Hensley, a reporter turned blogger at the *Wall Street Journal*, noted that the sheer volume of information that he produces and publishes in one day far exceeds what he used to for print. Hensley noted “…I start at 7am every day, and it’s a rare day when I’m [out of the office] before 5pm. We’re a news-driven blog. We post eight to 10 times a day. We try to have three up by 9:00am; a half-dozen by noon.” That’s a lot of volume that makes we wonder what sort of editorial control is in place. See below.
**Speed kills?**: What the PR Week article touched on, but did not elaborate on, was that, in their essence, blogs are about opinion, and more “mainstream” online and offline news are about fact. Many writers blur these distinctions and – and the difference in unclear still for many readers – but most would agree that, except for the “top tier” bloggers (and, sorry, but I do not count Matt Drudge as one of them), there is less fact-checking on a primary and secondary level. The increased pressure to “publish or perish” at light speed has created more room for errors.
Charles Kaiser, a *Radar* columnist, noted that when the *New York Times* erroneously reported that a relationship between presidential candidate John McCain and a lobbyist had grown romantic, Kaiser gave Representative Vin Weber (listed as a source) an astonishingly little 15 minutes to respond. Kaiser admitted that, without waiting for a confirmation, he published the story online 30 minutes later. Twenty minutes afterwards, Weber called back, denying that he was a source and according to Kaiser, “…we got [the correction up] 60 seconds later.” A correction is better than no correction, but not making the mistake is even better. When I read this anecdote, I could not help but think nostalgically of the scenes in the movie “All the President’s Men” in which Ben Bradlee and Woodward and Bernstein agonized over how many sources they needed to publish a story. Those days are gone, gone gone.
**New skill sets**: No matter what today’s budding or current journalists do, as social media platforms have challenged – and in some ways surpassed – the traditional pillars of TV and radio. Video and podcasting skills (skillz?) are now a serious plus in the age in which online readers expect to receive multimedia content – with emphasis on the “multi.” The study reported that more than half — 55.8 percent – of respondents stated that they are contributing in mediums “outside of their official duty.” So for those of you coming out of j-school, learn how to grab a video camera, rip a segment and do a podcast – because it may well become part and parcel to your “traditional” responsibilities.
**What the article didn’t say**: While the study was fascinating, working and living in Washington, DC, I have befriended some wonderful print journalists as well as numerous top-tier bloggers. I believe that the unspoken truth is this: putting bloggers and print reporters in a room, or asking them to do each others’ job is often like mixing oil and vinegar (or to use a social media reference, mixing Diet Coke and Mentos). I have seen significant disdain on both sides for each other, and am not sure how large media conglomerates are going to work this one out. Print still matters. Blogs and social media matter more than ever. The blurring of the two will continue unabated and print transitions to online.
And like the sub-head stated, the transition is already here.
*Mark Story is a part-time, adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a full-time communications professional at a government agency in Washington, D.C. Prior to the government, Mark worked for 11 years in some of the largest online public relations shops in the world.*

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