Since there seems to be ongoing interest in learning how to interact with mainstream and social media I thought I’d try this venue and open a forum dedicated to discussion of topics, questions, answers, observations, opinions or just plain bitches and gripes about the subject. We tried a skills exchange session last month where I met with five members to introduce concepts on media relations. I soon realized that a major barrier to understanding media was revealed by asking one question: What newspapers or TV news do you watch daily?
None of the participants had a positive response. Despite the risk of ostracism and general revulsion by the group, I’ll point out that this is the question Katie Couric asked Sara Palin during her first network news interview after being named John McCain’s Vice Presidential running mate. We all know how that turned out. So let’s kick off the discussion by stating that if you want to effectively communicate with “The MEDIA” you need to have an understanding of what the media is and how it operates. It’s easy to do, study one or more newspapers and watch one or more broadcast or cable news programs daily. Notice that I didn’t say read. You’re not doing this to become better informed on news events, although that’ll happen all on its own, but to understand how media outlets present news to their audience.
Look at the publications and broadcasts critically. Note which stories are used and how they are presented, on which page of the newspaper and where on the page do they appear? What is the sequence of stories in a TV news show? You’ll quickly see patterns emerge. Those patterns tell you what that media outlet uses, where stories will appear and how much page space or time us devoted to what type of story.
Remember that like politics, all news is local. One of my journalism mentors made this point using the following anecdote: Following the D-Day invasion the front page headline of the Newark Star Ledger read: NEW JERSEY MAN AND FIFTY THOUSAND OTHERS INVADE NORMANDY BEACH.