Downsized Newsrooms & PR Practitioners

It’s pretty well-known that newsrooms are shrinking. A recent study from the Pew Research Center provided further insight into this trend, concluding that newsroom employment in the US decreased by 25% from 2008 to 2018.

The primary sector in this decade-long decline? Newspapers. The number of employees for the traditional print medium dropped 47%, according to the study, shifting from approximately 71,000 employees to 38,000.

As PR practitioners, we respect and appreciate the work of the media. It’s never a good feeling when we hear that another newsroom is downsizing.

There’s no doubt that this decline in staffing has several implications for our profession. The obvious is that it can be more difficult to land a story, since smaller newsrooms mean fewer reporters available to write stories. In fact, for each journalist, there are now more than six public relations professionals.

We’re going to have to stand out. Our pitches, as always, must maintain the seven news values and capture the attention of a journalist.

It also means we’ll want to do our best to help journalists the way we know how: Serving as a helpful resource and link to our clients. This has always been standard practice, but it’s important now more than ever to consider the time constraints that come with a downsized newsroom.

If you’re offering your client’s executive as a source, make sure they’re actually available for interview. If a reporter asks you for a statistic so they can meet a deadline, be timely in your response. After all, they might be in the process of writing more than one story.

When possible, you’ll want to include any photographs or visuals that can help your reporter cover a story. Helping them save time (and manpower) on photographs or infographic creation can definitely help them out.

It’s always good to remember that a journalist will be more likely to work with you in the future if they trust you to follow through on your promises.

We should also make sure we’re keeping up with reporters and editors we work with. For me, that tends to be on social. I follow a few reporters I’ve worked with in the past on Twitter just to see what kinds of stories they’re writing. This keeps me in the loop about what they’re covering and any opportunities to tie into a client’s story. It also allows me to be aware if they move outlets or start covering an additional beat.

We never like to hear about downsizing newsrooms, but it’s important for us to consider what this trend means for PR practitioners. Our job is to serve as a helpful link between clients and journalists. We’ll need to remain aware of continuing staff and time constraints and consider ways that our profession can best serve the media as that link.

As always, be sure to check out some of the other Commonwealth PR blogs here.

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