Is this really how the news world used to operate?

By Matter

It’s no surprise to anyone in PR that print publications are hurting. My esteemed coworkers have even talked about it on this blog before, here and here. But a recent article from the New Times of Broward/Palm Beach forwarded to me by my friend and colleague Matt Landry opened my eyes to just how much the print journalism world has changed. I’ve only been in PR since I got out of college about four years ago, and upon my entry into the industry, the digital revolution was in full swing, and I was already used to getting my news online. Print publications are still a part of my everyday outreach and scanning; print is just not the primary channel I pursue.

The New Times article examines the frenzied pace, the competition and the politics of the newsrooms of south Florida’s daily newspapers. Even though this article only focuses on that specific region of the country, I suspect it describes a familiar example of many newsrooms around the country. One anecdote I found particularly amusing is that one journalist was so bent on covering important, breaking news, that he would go through his colleague’s mailboxes and throw away press releases that were delivered to them.

Another story that struck me was that one newsroom actually purchased voting machines so the staff could test them out to find flaws in the system! I can’t really imagine any newsroom in the country with the staffing or financial resources to do that type of research now. Unfortunately, reductions in ad revenue have changed the way news is now reported. Editorial websites are more interested in covering breaking news than they are in developing longer, more in-depth and more researched pieces. While there is a place in the media for both types of articles, the latter is giving way to the former more and more.

But the saddest part of the article, however, was reading all the stories about how the changes at most print publications have forced just about everyone to fear for their job. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but too often, we PR people hear about journalist layoffs and we’re disappointed that we won’t be able to pitch them anymore. We need to remember that these journalists are real people who are being told they can no longer do what they love to do (or threatened with the prospect), at least not in the capacity they’re used to. Some former reporters discussed in the article have found other ways to cover news on their own terms. Sadly, some have become so jaded with the industry that they quit writing altogether and enjoy other pursuits.

Reading about the way print publications used to be run makes me interested in hearing more stories about that world. While it may be a familiar way of life to many PR pros, many of us new(er) to the industry were never exposed to it. Feel free to share your favorite anecdotes about newsroom craziness or the way things used to be in the comments below.