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
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
’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
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
On Fridays, the newspaper publishes another free-standing section called
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
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
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
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.’
PO Box 670
Austin, TX 78767-0670
305 S. Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704-1200
Tel: (512) 445 3500
Fax: (512) 445 3679
400 N. Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-1536
Bureau chief: Andrew Alexander
Tel.: (202) 331 0900
Fax: (202) 331 1055
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