Client: Time magazine (New York)
Client: Time magazine (New York)
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Connecting Time journalists with grass-roots America
Time Frame: June to July 2000
During the last presidential race in 1996, Time magazine journalists
took a trip down Route 50 on a greyhound bus to take the pulse of
This election year, the team traveled down the Mississippi River by
The PR challenge? To drive coverage of Time magazine events along the
route to put the title in touch with ordinary Americans in 2000.
’News doesn’t just happen in New York and DC,’ says Time’s deputy
director of public affairs Debra Richman, ’but also on Main Street. Our
journalists were looking for material that might resonate nationally.’
For Time’s reporters to find that material, Richman helped set up a
series of ’meet the people’ events at points along the Mississippi. The
intention was to put all kinds of people - from farmers to local mayors
- in contact with the Time reporting team.
A huge media relations operation was launched to get the public to
attend the events and air their views. The media was also encouraged to
cover the debates and discussions on issues ranging from religion to
race and education. Ultimately Richman’s aim was to promote the July 3
issue featuring a cover story about the issues that concern ordinary
For three solid weeks Richman dedicated herself to pitching radio, local
press and TV. For that she needed to do extensive research on the local
media scenes along the Mississippi. The first stop along the route was
Hannibal, MO, Mark Twain’s hometown. Other stops included Memphis and
Cape Girardeau, MO, where Time held a debate on community policing.
While the Time editorial team traveled by boat, Richman acted as advance
scout, ensuring that everything was in place at the venues and making
managing editor Walter Isaacson and other editorial staff available to
local media. Around 30 editorial staff members went on the trip. They
included special projects editor Barrett Seaman, assistant managing
editor Priscilla Painton and senior editor Nancy Gibbs. Also along for
the ride was photographer Diana Walker. ’We would see people at bus
stops and she would jump up and ask their permission to take their
photo. Traveling with her was a terrific experience,’ Richman says.
Richman had also considered setting up a satellite media tour on the day
the issue was published, but decided against it because of the July 4th
The Time project attracted national coverage from the CBS Early Show,
which followed the trip for three days and aired a piece on July 3. The
morning show cut back on its live coverage of the trip, however, because
of the Elian Gonzalez story. Also covering the event was TV show CNN &
Time; the segment aired on CNN July 2.
PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer attended part of the event for a story
on reporters in the field, and MediaWeek reporter Lisa Granatstein also
filed on the project. Local media included Baton Rouge radio station
WJBO, which broadcast a live show with Time editors. They also provided
a link to the magazine’s Web site. Newspapers in every market the Time
tour visited filed on the project. ’Many people were thrilled to be part
of it,’ says Richman.
If Time’s managing editor Walter Isaacson decides to repeat the project
come the 2004 election, Richman says they’d have to brainstorm for an
alternative route to traverse the country.