MEDIA: Making friends with the Gray Lady - The New York Times’ business section - and its editor - are surprisingly approachable Claire Atkinson finds out how to make your pitches part of the news that’s fit to print.

For a deadline-crazed business editor, Glenn Kramon is remarkably friendly on the telephone. The editor of The New York Times’ Business Day section is, surprisingly, not filled with the usual bile about the endless mistakes of PR pros. In fact he can even come up with examples of pitches that really impressed him.

For a deadline-crazed business editor, Glenn Kramon is remarkably friendly on the telephone. The editor of The New York Times’ Business Day section is, surprisingly, not filled with the usual bile about the endless mistakes of PR pros. In fact he can even come up with examples of pitches that really impressed him.

For a deadline-crazed business editor, Glenn Kramon is remarkably

friendly on the telephone. The editor of The New York Times’ Business

Day section is, surprisingly, not filled with the usual bile about the

endless mistakes of PR pros. In fact he can even come up with examples

of pitches that really impressed him.



When Kramon hears that some outlets refuse to give out lists of the

beats covered by their reporters, he’s incredulous. ’(PR pros) can be

quite valuable if they pay attention to the paper and know who covers

what and target their pitches, rather than blanketing reporters and

editors,’ he says.



Kramon remembers a great pitch from Applebee’s restaurant. ’They were

moving into the New York area, and they had an interesting concept. The

guy laid it out very well, and we had a reporter on a plane a week

later.’ (Rubenstein & Associates, which helped pitch the Applebee’s

story, however, says it couldn’t find any coverage in the Times.)



These days, Kramon is overseeing an editorial staff of 95 and has little

to do, personally, with PR pros. He has moved his way up from healthcare

reporter back in 1987 to several editing positions to deputy business

editor in 1994 to editor in 1997. Before joining The New York Times,

Kramon was business editor at The San Francisco Examiner and worked at

The Kansas City Star in the mid-70s. (He was named best ski writer in

the nation by the US Ski Association in 1980.)





Getting past the spin



Kramon and his team have certainly broken some big business stories over

the past few months. He mentions Steve Labaton’s piece (June 7)

revealing that AT&T had filed documents to raise its rates after it had

announced cost savings to customers.



On February 1, Ed Andrews and Andrew Sorkin reported that

telecommunications firm Mannesmann would no longer oppose a deal with

Vodafone AirTouch - on the same day that The Wall Street Journal and The

Financial Times wrote that Mannesmann was moving against it. ’Ed and

Andrew got past the static and the spin surrounding the dollars 183

billion deal and found the people who knew what was really happening,’

says Kramon.



But the head editor is acutely aware of how much influence some investor

relations agencies can wield on the Wall Street beat - and he’s prepared

to do what it takes to get the exclusives and buy time to prepare the

most abundant news packages.



’Some executives know what they want and the PR people are the

go-betweens,’ he says. ’With others, the IR people are the ones that

know something and want to see you do it this way or that way.’



When there’s merger news breaking, the section has an emergency meeting

and reporters suggest as many angles as they can think of. ’We have a

check list of questions on deals, and we adjust it accordingly and in

some cases look at the consumer impact,’ Kramon says.



While some papers rule out deals if they are not seven figures, Kramon

says there is no cut-off point at the Times. ’Brand names have to be big

enough for them to recognize,’ he says.



In May, the Times was eager to explore the implications of a United/US

Airways merger, but was bound by an embargo set up by IR firm Joele

Frank, Wilkinson, Brimmer, Katcher. In return for advance word on the

merger, the Times agreed not to talk to third parties. Three other

national newspapers and two wire services had also agreed to the

deal.



The embargo fell apart, however, when The Financial Times broke the

story on its Web site, which led Kramon to print details of the

negotiation at the end of the page-one story. That the Times would agree

to such an embargo was the subject of much criticism, including from

Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post.



Kramon told PRWeek at the time that it was important for readers to

understand how the news media work. ’We knew that would be huge with our

readers - that’s why we wanted it early so we could plan,’ he says

now.



When it comes to PR pros knowing how his section works, Kramon says not

to be afraid to call the desk and ask for the appropriate beat

reporter.



Patricia Frith, a PR pro for E!Entertainment, pitched advertising

columnist Stuart Elliot a story about cable-TV demographics. ’I found it

to be challenging,’ she says. ’Don’t call unless you have a specific

angle. They don’t like you wasting their time.’



One AOL-Time Warner communications source says that in-depth items are

the section’s strength. ’The Times is very good for focused pieces while

the Journal is more day-to-day business news.’



Kramon adds that on days when big news is scarce, he likes to run

something no other business paper does. ’We will try to have things that

the wires, the FT, the Post, USA Today and the LA Times won’t have:

enterprising stories that point to trends.’ For example, a cover piece

in July examined the battle that airlines are waging to operate a new

route to China.





Expansion mode



Business Day is now accompanied by two additional sections on

Wednesdays, Workplace and Management, which are overseen by Brent

Bowers. ’These have the most wide appeal to readers,’ says Kramon, who

is also making changes to the business section of the Sunday Times. ’It

was focused on personal finance and now it is focusing on business.’



Kramon is not only expanding the coverage, but also the staff. In

addition to posting dedicated correspondents in Hong Kong, Shanghai,

Tokyo, London, Paris and Frankfurt, the section has contract writers in

Sao Paolo, Toronto, Singapore, Seoul and Moscow. ’Expect a couple more,’

Kramon says, adding that he can’t yet name new appointees.



Kramon has also been busy hiring new domestic reporters. The newcomers

include Simon Romero, joining as a second telecom correspondent

alongside Seth Schiesel, and Leslie Kaufman, a retail reporter from

Newsweek. Alex Berenson, a reporter for a joint venture Web newsroom

between the Times and The Street.com, recently made the leap to the

print edition. And Kramon has created a new beat, biotechnology

reporter, which was filled by Andrew Pollack, a former Los Angeles

correspondent.



Contact List

The New York Times Business Day

229 West 43rd Street

New York, NY 10036

Tel: (212) 556 1474

Fax: (212) 556 1448

e-mail: firstletterlastname@nytimes.com

Web: www.nytimes.com

Editor: Glenn Kramon

Deputy business editors: Winnie O’Kelly, Jim Schacter

Assignment editor: Jeff Cane (supervises coverage of daily news)

Money and business editor: Judith Dobrzynksi (supervises Sunday edition)

Enterprise and economics editor: Tom Redburn (supervises features)

Company news editor: Fred Eliason

Chief of domestic correspondents: Jeff Sommer (supervises non-New York

US-based correspondents)

Chief of foreign correspondents: Rick Gladstone (supervises overseas

business reporters)

Technology editors: Kevin McKenna, John Haskins

Monday section editor: Tim Race

Weekend editor: Kelley Holland

Deputy Sunday editor: Pat Lyons

Investing editor: Richard Teitelbaum

Private sector editor: Allan Myerson

Workplace/management editor: Brent Bowers

Media editor: David Smith

Night business editor: Vicki Epstein



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