MEDIA: Austin American-Statesman: multifaceted coverage

With Texas governor George W. Bush running for president and the city’s hi-tech scene as hot as its music, Austin is all the rage these days. But for PR pros who want to reach Austinites, Art Garcia discovers the city’s only daily is the place to be.

With Texas governor George W. Bush running for president and the city’s hi-tech scene as hot as its music, Austin is all the rage these days. But for PR pros who want to reach Austinites, Art Garcia discovers the city’s only daily is the place to be.

With Texas governor George W. Bush running for president and the

city’s hi-tech scene as hot as its music, Austin is all the rage these

days. But for PR pros who want to reach Austinites, Art Garcia discovers

the city’s only daily is the place to be.



The ’legend and lore’ about Austin, TX is ’you show up in a Greyhound

bus with an old guitar strapped on your back,’ says Richard Oppel,

editor of the Austin American-Statesman, the city’s only daily.



But the newer, more accurate image of Austin is as a growing metroplex

for the new economy, the entertainment industry and the HQ of

presidential hopeful George W. Bush. A few may still step off a bus,

guitar in hand, but most new arrivals are young, well-educated, wired,

carry laptops and come from around the country and the rest of Texas.

Much of the traffic in and out of the city flies Southwest Airlines

local service, known as ’the nerd bird,’ for connections with San Jose

and Silicon Valley.



Smart PR people who want to play into the city’s dynamic demographic and

the 188,000 daily and 244,000 Sunday circulation of American-Statesman

(second largest of the Cox Newspapers dailies, behind the Atlanta

Journal-Constitution) will hone and target their story pitches

accordingly.



Hi-tech is the star of the Austin economy, with venture capital funds

almost tripling over the past year. Austin has attracted a range of

hi-tech firms like Dell Computer, which is based in nearby Round Rock.

Other firms with interests in the area include Intel, Motorola and

Applied Magnetics.



’The new economy is one of the best stories in the world, and Austin is

a terrific vantage point for covering it,’ says Kathy Warbelow, 51,

newly appointed executive business editor at the Austin

American-Statesman.



Warbelow, the former managing editor, adds: ’But we want to pay

attention to a lot of the other economic things going on here.’ She led

the revamping of the business department’s Tech Monday, and says the

16-page stand-alone section has become a prime hit for local companies

and their PR reps.



’They shoot for it. It’s become a premier location.’



PR pitches can go to Warbelow or directly to beat reporters, by e-mail

only (the Web site, www.austin360.com, has a staff list). If you’re

pitching Tech Monday, you need to get to staff before it closes on the

prior Thursday.



On Fridays, the newspaper publishes another free-standing section called

Technopolis.



Jeff Salamon, arts editor and head of the Thursday entertainment tabloid

insert, titled X L Ent, on the other hand, is not a filter for

pitches.



He suggests contacting the appropriate staff editor or beat person,

preferably via e-mail.



The deadline for posting listings of shows, events, music performances

and clubs is 4 pm the prior Monday. For all other arts activities, 5 pm

Friday is the cut-off.



Getting into the section could be tough given the number of

entertainment attractions in the town. Austin is a draw for Hollywood

types - it’s home to many film directors, screenwriters, authors,

musicians and actors.



Marquee locals include Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey and Renee

Zellweger; McConaughey and Zellweger are alums of the University of

Texas at Austin and its top-rated radio/TV/film department.



In March, the city hosts South by Southwest, several festival weeks of

mostly independent film previews, music street performances, concerts

and an interactive tech component that draws huge turnouts.



The paper also is big on sports and published a special section on local

Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France for the second time this

year.



The Austin American-Statesman is of course the local newspaper of

presidential front runner George W. Bush though Drew Marcks, assistant

managing editor, says it has tried to keep its coverage of the race

balanced. ’We have not endorsed anyone for president,’ he adds.



The newspaper has a team of reporters, including Ken Herman and Jena

Heath, focusing on the race. They work alongside reporters from other

Cox newspapers and the Washington, DC bureau.



Overseeing the entire operation is Richard Oppel, who is currently

national president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Oppel

is very much an old-school journalist; he tacks up on the glass wall of

his office tear sheets from the American-Statesman and sometimes other

papers, highlighting examples of good and bad writing and editing. He

even has a positive view of PR. ’Public relations people are our

partners,’ he says. ’We look at them as professionals and try to respect

their time, and we encourage them to respond likewise.’



Oppel, 57, joined the paper five years ago as editor after spending two

years as head of the 50-person Knight-Ridder Washington bureau. From

1978 to 1993, he was editor of the Charlotte Observer in North

Carolina.



Oppel keeps an open office door and regularly wanders the newsroom for

what he calls ’’rump time,’ where I sit my rump on a corner of the desk

and ask the reporters what story they’re working on.’



Asked his imprint on the culture of the newsroom, Oppel replies, ’You’d

get mixed reviews on it. I think, generally, I’m viewed as having

traditional news values but one who encourages lots of freedom and

innovation, in both the journalism and search for new products.’



Indeed, the paper wants to extend the brand through parent Cox over

other media platforms, including online, TV, radio and weeklies through

partnerships and alliances.



Oppel, of course, has no intention of neglecting the print edition. ’I

want to build a far better newspaper that’s essential to our readers,

one they respect always, love some of the time and may be angry over

sometimes too,’ he says. ’We think we’re a good newspaper trying to

become a great newspaper.’





CONTACT LIST



Austin American-Statesman



PO Box 670



Austin, TX 78767-0670



305 S. Congress Avenue



Austin, TX 78704-1200



Tel: (512) 445 3500



Fax: (512) 445 3679



Washington Bureau:



400 N. Capitol Street, NW



Suite 750



Washington, DC 20001-1536



Bureau chief: Andrew Alexander



Tel.: (202) 331 0900



Fax: (202) 331 1055



E-mail: firstinitiallastname@statesman.com



Web: www.austin360.com



Editor: Richard Oppel



Assistant managing editors: Sharon Roberts, Drew Marcks, Fred Zipp

(metro/state); Melissa Segrest (features)



Executive business editor: Kathy Warbelow



Assistant business editor: Claire Wood



Arts editor: Jeff Salamon



Assistant entertainment editor: Jody Seaborn



Executive features editor: Anne Smith



Fine arts writer: Michael Barnes



Film/video critic: Chris Garcia



Book review editor: Anne Morris



Lifestyle editor: Sharyn Wizda



Executive sports editor: David Humphrey



Travel editor: Cassandra Scott



Writers: John Pletz (PC industry), Jerry Mahoney (venture capital),

Michelle Breyer (real estate), Lori Hawkins (software), Bob Keefe (West

Coast technology), Diane Holloway (TV), Chris Riemenschneider (pop

music).



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in