Betsy Rothstein has been on staff at The Hill for seven years. She began her career there reporting on congressional caucuses and the Senate, and now edits the Capital Living section, which she describes as a "down-to-earth" living section about members of Congress. She also heads the publication's gossip column. Before joining The Hill, Rothstein spent a year and a half as press secretary for Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL).
PRWeek: What are some of the challenges of covering Congress?
Betsy Rothstein: I don't think there are a lot of challenges. It's just a matter of balancing your time and getting good stories, getting people to trust you and talk to you. You're getting these very serious people to open up about their lives. Sometimes people don't want to open up.
PRWeek: How much do PR people and press secretaries play into your daily job?
Rothstein: I have to be nice to them. They're not at my mercy. If I had that kind of attitude, I don't think any of them would ever talk to me. I think it is [about] building relationships over a long time. Covering the Hill for this amount of time, you do build relationships. A lot of times, there's such a high turnover within the PR aspect of it, that a lot of times I will have a really good relationship with the member, so inevitably I have a good relationship with the press person. Or sometimes, I don't even need the press person.
PRWeek: How do you think that being a press secretary has helped you in your current job?
Rothstein: I think it's helped me in the sense that I know how an office works on the Hill. So, when they tell me something that doesn't make sense to me, I know the makeup of the office, I know how things run generally. I only did it for a year and a half, so I didn't consider myself an expert at PR at all. I was definitely a journalist trying something new. There are people that are much better than I ever was. I was not meant to be a press person.
PRWeek: Do you see a difference in the way that non-government PR professionals deal with you?
Rothstein: The outside groups are much more forceful. I get calls from them a lot more, and they are often stories that I don't want to write.
PRWeek: What advice would you give to PR professionals trying to get their "clients" into the publication?
Rothstein: For press secretaries, I would say to do more pitching. A lot of times people think it's so hard to get a story in. If someone calls me and they have a good idea, we work together to make the idea better. A lot of times people don't think to call.
Name: Betsy Rothstein
Outlet: The Hill
Title: Capital Living editor
Preferred contact method: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.thehill.com