Broadening media landscape offers PR pros a chance - and challenge - to produce news

Nytimes.com wants your content. That was one message from the podium of the Impact '05 conference that was held earlier this month, hosted by Plesser Holland Associates. (I moderated a panel at the conference.)

Nytimes.com wants your content. That was one message from the podium of the Impact '05 conference that was held earlier this month, hosted by Plesser Holland Associates. (I moderated a panel at the conference.)

Len Apcar, editor-in-chief of Nytimes.com, reportedly told the audience that, "Newspapers in the traditional sense are dead," and that PR people have an opportunity to create content that will be delivered directly to consumers and embraced by the media.

By way of example, he mentioned a story about a recall of Ford vehicles that ran on the site. The editorial team decided to include a link to Ford's website, and he said that it provided valuable information to consumers about the problem, along with a search tool owners could use to find out if their cars were among those being recalled. It was an example of useful corporate information that augmented, rather than detracted, from the coverage.

Andy Plesser, founder of Plesser Holland, says that it's a sign that even traditional media outlets are becoming multi-layered, aggregating information from a range of sources, not just pushing out their own take on a story. This is an opportunity for PR pros to become "producers, not spinners," Plesser said. "You don't have to just create a briefing that's journalistic. You can actually publish information yourself and have it be used by The New York Times."

Apcar and other speakers predictably emphasized the importance of straightforward communications, not "spin." This is where it gets sticky, of course.

Who defines what "spin" is? The media has traditionally had that role, but now, more and more it is really the consumer of information who renders that judgment, either directly or through established media channels. That fact may be the most liberating component of this new media paradigm for PR pros. But it is also demands much more clarity and relevance
in communications than ever before.

Gillmor brings media expertise to PRWeek

Media is one of most provocative industry topics today, and PRWeek is striving to bring even more thought leadership on pertinent media topics to our readers.

As part of that effort, noted media expert Dan Gillmor will be writing a monthly column for PRWeek and PRWeek.com, beginning next Monday, October 3. Gillmor was a tech writer and columnist at the San Jose Mercury News until January 2005, when he left to launch a citizen journalism project called Bayosphere.

His book We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, For the People was published in 2004, and looked at the ways in which the traditional media landscape has changed, and how non-journalists are no longer merely recipients of information, but are
an active part of the process.

In an interview with PRWeek at the time of his book launch, Gillmor encouraged traditional media and communicators alike not to fear change. "The newsmakers, the institutions the journalists cover, should listen and embrace the buzz about what is going on," Gillmor said. "They now have the tools to communicate more directly with all audiences. And audiences can get much more nuanced and in-depth reports, and they can become part of the journalist process themselves. It's quite a wonderful change."

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