Job market coverage prospers in recession

In the past, media attention to the job market peaked twice a year - in late spring when college graduates entered the labor force, and during the holidays when retailers brought on seasonal workers.

In the past, media attention to the job market peaked twice a year – in late spring when college graduates entered the labor force, and during the holidays when retailers brought on seasonal workers.

However, during the current economic climate, jobs have turned into a full-fledged media obsession. Yet many reporters are unprepared to cover occupations, notes Sean Muir, account supervisor with Kitchen Public Relations.

“I wouldn't be surprised if there are [half] as many career reporters as there were two years ago,” he says. “Carol Hymowitz left The Wall Street Journal... and numerous writers at smaller newspapers told me their editors are opting for wires and syndicated content.”

There are some signs that the current economy is forcing outlets to once again pour resources into careers and job coverage. Chad Graham was switched from covering the economy to the job and workplace beat at The Arizona Republic several months ago.

“The editors here saw a need because this economy is really unprecedented, and so we want to get people solutions,” he explains.

Graham says he welcomes PR pitches, but emphasizes that they have to be local and take into account the variety of workers in the Phoenix area.

“Some in our audience are new to the workforce and don't remember the recession of 2001, while there are other people who had the same job for 20 years, and so never had to apply for a position online,” he adds. “You have different people facing different issues, so you never run out of ideas.”

Jennifer Grasz, senior corporate communications director at CareerBuilder.com, works with reporters looking to interview job-market experts and oversees an editorial team producing 20 to 30 stories per month for the company's Web site, as well as portals like AOL.

Grasz says the stories she works on include perennial topics, such as writing an effective resume or keys to a great job interview. However, she stresses stories also have to reflect the current times.

“We're doing more articles on how to make yourself recession-proof or what to do if you've been laid off,” she says.

Dave Payne, media relations supervisor at MS&L Atlanta, notes the monthly unemployment figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics can provide a ready-made news hook, but also suggests leveraging state- or market-specific unemployment numbers.

“We've had success with pitches on what industries in Georgia are doing well and what industries are doing poorly, as well as the reasons why,” he adds. “As long as you can tie into breaking news, it's an opportunity for clients large or small to position themselves as great places to work, which can help attract and retain workers.”

Pitching...the job market

Register with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to receive monthly job figures via e-mail so you can pitch real-time, localized angles to the national story

Provide a real-world example of someone struggling in the current job market; you'll have a better chance of generating interest among reporters

The workplace is often an advice-driven beat, so provide upbeat lists of things job hunters can do to stay focused on their next position

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