Veteran New York Daily News writer Corky Siemaszko may be one of the only people ever who claims to have entered journalism "for the money."
But the ex-social worker spent eight months making calls to a Chicago news bureau until they took him on in the early 1980s, assuring him a steady paycheck during those days of recession. After posts with papers in Florida and New Jersey, as well a stint in academia, he landed at the Daily News 12 years ago as a "rewrite man," which he remains today.
PRWeek: Explain exactly what a "rewrite man" does.
Corky Siemaszko: It's essentially a short-order word cook, like a cross between a reporter and an editor. At the News, because getting around New York can often be difficult, when something breaks in the city, we'll dispatch leg-men to gather the information, they'll call it into me, and I slap it all together in a story.
PRWeek: What makes a good Daily News story?
Siemaszko: We cover the schools, the courts, the cops, things that go boom, celebrities, pretty much everything. You name it, it could be a Daily News story. It's a tight paper, so you must have a mixture of saucy and serious stories.
PRWeek: Why has your paper been winning the tabloid wars with the New York Post?
Siemaszko: Because we're a serious paper. We're brightly written. We're also an established newspaper. Most of our readers read us exclusively. The Post is a second read for a lot of people, and therein lies the difference. We're still the biggest selling newspaper in New York City.
PRWeek: How has your relationship been with PR people over the course of your career?
Siemaszko: Pretty good, in general. When I walk into the newsroom, I will find six to 12 pieces of e-mail from PR people pushing stories. I don't get rid of anything without looking at it. A lot of it may not be of interest to me, per se... because I've got such a broad spectrum of stories that I do. I write everything from Syrians to sex, so I get the experts clawing out of the woodwork.
PRWeek: What makes a good pitch to you?
Siemaszko: Clever writing. I'm more likely to read something that's brightly written than somebody saying, "The University of Stony Brook's expert blah, blah, blah says this." If it's entertaining, I'll read it. One thing that would be very smart for PR people to do is to make a habit of always including a cell phone number. Because nine times out ten, something breaks after everyone's gone home.
PRWeek: Who's the best person that can possibly be on the cover of the Daily News?
Siemaszko: How do I answer this question without giving out the state secret? Let's put it this way: It's not so much who is on the cover, as much as [whether] it's a good story. If it's a good story, it'll sell. There are some stars that our readers tend to be more interested in than others. A while back, when Nicole Kidman did some turn in a Broadway play, I think she appeared nude in it for a flash of a second. And we did a "Saucy Aussie" cover, and that sold a lot. People liked that. They'll be intrigued by a good front page, but it isn't all sugar. It's also some serious stuff inside.
Name: Corky Siemaszko
Outlet: New York Daily News
Title: Staff writer
Preferred contact method: Csiemaszko@edit.nydailynews.com