Pitching difficulty increases in wake of newsroom layoffs

In recent weeks, newsroom layoffs at daily and weekly newspapers have seemingly increased throughout the US. Just last week the Los Angeles Times announced a plan to let 75 people go, which is 10% of its newsroom staff. In addition, the Star-Ledger in New Jersey said it planned to cut about 40% of its staff through a series of buyouts.

In the news
In recent weeks, newsroom layoffs at daily and weekly newspapers have seemingly increased throughout the US. Just last week the Los Angeles Times announced a plan to let 75 people go, which is 10% of its newsroom staff. In addition, the Star-Ledger in New Jersey said it planned to cut about 40% of its staff through a series of buyouts.  

Why does it matter?

Nick Ragone, SVP and director of media at Ketchum, says the recent layoffs have made pitching trickier because reporters are busier than before, and there seems to be “a general nervousness” among news staffs. When media pros changed jobs in the past, he says, it often just meant having a contact at a new media outlet. But in the last six months, it seems that many people can't find another media job after being laid off, or are choosing to leave the field altogether to pursue other career options.

“That's bad for the person who has to go through the transition; for PR people, it's bad because we lose good contacts,” Ragone says.

Pitching now needs to be more strategic, because many reporters are taking on additional roles, says Stephen Bonser, cofounder of Media Pitchers, a pay-as-you-go media relations service. Many reporters don't have enough time for telephone conversations, so Bonser says follow-up e-mails are crucial to allow the reporter to reassess when more time is available.  

“A good solid pitch that's newsworthy and well-crafted is more valuable than ever,” he says.
 Ragone adds, “Don't add to their stress level. You just need to be a little smarter about how you pitch.”
Five facts:

1 Compared with 2007 Q3 revenues, Gannett's 2008 Q3 was down 9%; The New York Times Company was down 8.9%; and McClatchy was down 16.4%.

2 Gannett recently announced a plan to cut 10% of the jobs at its US local dailies. In August, the company also announced the elimination of 1,000 newspaper jobs.

3 Time Inc. said on October 29 that it will restructure the company, and cut more than 600 positions – or 6% of its workforce.

4 The Christian Science Monitor plans to close its print edition, and operate solely as an online publication starting in April 2009.

5 After US newspapers criticized it for high membership costs, the AP said it will reduce rates and re-examine its membership structure to lower costs.

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