The 5th Annual Meet The Media panel series was held last week at St. John Fisher College. The series featured four panels with a total of 14 panelists. The panelists included Rochester professionals from the Democrat and Chronicle, 13 WHAM, NPR, Dixon Schwabl, Fifco, the Strong Museum of Play and more! Over thirty students attended various panels throughout the week.
Below are the top 5 takeaways from the series:
1. Relationship Building is Key.
In a communications profession, the most important thing is building relationships and establishing trust with members of the media. Rochester has a small media community. If you aren’t reliable, your reputation among media members will likely be damaged, making it hard to work with them.
Julie Philipp, the senior engagement editor at the Democrat & Chronicle, informed students that you will be more successful if you build and maintain strong relationships with reporters. “Relationships go further than press releases,” said Philipp. She explained that getting to know a reporter and what they like reporting on is helpful in tailoring your pitches.
Courteny O’Gorman, a PR Coordinator at Dixon Schwabl, said that thanking people will take you a long way. She said that handwritten notes or even a simple tweet will make people feel appreciated and have more respect for you.
2. Press Releases: We need them, right?
In today’s landscape, press releases have a much different role than they used to. We learn a formula for how to write them. We practice, practice, practice. However, the panelists warned students that PR is much more than sending out press releases.
Evan Dawson, the host of “Connections” on NPR explained that he gets 100-200 press releases a week and most of them aren’t helpful. His producer, Megan Mack, agreed and advised students to “tailor your pitch to the media show you’re sending it to.” She said that it is important to research the news show you are pitching to be on and to know what they look for.
Shane Rhinewald, a senior director of PR at the Strong Museum of Play, said that press releases act as a supplementary tool to a personalized news pitch. Calling up a reporter and pitching a story will often result in them asking for the press release after. He said that press releases are still important and necessary, but they can’t be the only way to get a story attention.
3. Journalism is Constantly Evolving
We all know that journalism and the media have had a changing landscape in recent years. The panelists at Meet The Media explain the ways they are seeing it evolve with their career.
When asked to speak on the topic of the shrinking newsroom and loss of readership, the panelists had a lot to say. Philipp said that the decrease in advertising within print newspaper has caused a lack of funding which lead to the decrease in readership. She explained that because they aren’t getting as much funding they can’t cover as many news stories which has lead to less people reading the paper.
During the special edition panel, Rachel Barnhart believes that the lack of coverage of political candidates and other government affairs is dangerous for the public. She hopes that an emphasis on political coverage will recover despite the changing landscape.
4. Media Literacy is Essential
In the light of the current state of the media and politics, panelists were asked to touch on the role of media and how the term “fake news” has affected that. Evan Dawson from NPR explained that there is very little news that is actually fake news. He said that the term is a tactic to get listeners not to listen to something. Although there is bias, journalism from trusted sources mostly remains accurate.
Schuhmacher said that transparency in journalism is an important quality in order to maintain trust. If journalists give the public insights on how a story is produced and/or written, they will have more of a sense of the process and more trust for it.
Philipp agreed and believes media literacy should be taught as early as kindergarten. She says learning how to know where information is coming from and how to decide whether it is trustworthy is an important skill.
Schwartz said that the term and its implications have had an impact on the way journalists do their job. He said that people have started harassing journalists while they are working and media members are no longer seen as people by many.
5. Social Media Rules
Tracy Schuhmacher, the food and drink reporter for Democrat & Chronicle explained how social media has affected her work. “People DM me for restaurant recommendations and information,” said Schuhmacher. She said that Facebook and Instagram lives have added a whole new element to journalism.
Michael Schwartz of 13 WHAM spoke about the way immediacy of reporting can cause errors in reporting. He explained a few stories of when tweeting out breaking news had caused him to relay misinformation. Julie Philipp offered some interesting insights about using Pinterest as a news source.
Megan Mack from NPR says she gets a lot of her radio show ideas from conversations on social media. She can see what people care about and are interested in discussing and then can bring that into her show.
With social media, there comes rules. Journalists have to be careful when using their social media. Although they often have personal accounts, whenever they post, they are posting as a journalist. Dawson explained that journalists have to be careful about sharing opinions or biases online because they are trusted to be unbiased information reporters. Schuhmacher agreed and warned the audience that reporters should try to avoid political topics on twitter.
Overall, this year’s Meet The Media was a success. The panelists all engaged students in a series of informational, entertaining and insightful panels at St. John Fisher College.