Comforting Media By Reenergizing Your Relationships

Photo Courtesy of Talat Hussain C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Talat Hussain C.C.

The Thinning of Media

Managing our media relationships is even more important today as media conglomerates continue to downsize newsrooms and shift to digital platforms.

Editorial downsizing and media convergence is nothing new in Canada. There is not a year that goes by without a headline announcing serious newsroom cutbacks in broadcast, print and radio. In 1970 Senator Keith Davey began the national dialogue in Canada warning of media convergence. Although concentrating on print journalism, the Kent Report findings represented recommendations intended for all media holdings.

“What matters,” explained the Committee’s report, “is the fact that control of the media is passing into fewer and fewer hands, and that experts agree that this trend is likely to continue and perhaps accelerate.”

And accelerate it did! Flash forward to 2017 and beyond, over the last year alone upwards of 1,200 productions, editorial and administration staff have been eliminated by convergence and editorial downsizing in this country.

International media has not escaped the swath of fiscal efficiency as one of the world’s most respected and digitally presentable news institutions, The Guardian Media Group, are speaking of “…steep editorial cuts.”

There is no doubt that these are extremely difficult times for media. Not necessarily for the business entities, but for the journalist that lies at the centre of keeping their jobs and maintaining integrity where the players are few; and the direction of editorial still unknown.

“We’re going down the path where journalism and the convergence of news that’s important for a functioning democracy is at an existential risk in this country,” expounds Howard Law, Director of Media for Unifor, the union representing over 13,000 in media.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Rice C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Rice C.C.

A Business in Transition

Postmedia, one of Canada’s largest media arms just last year announced the combining of newsroom editors and journalists in targeted regions across the country. Cities that had enjoyed localized coverage would now share newsgathering resources even though their editorial desks lie hundreds of miles apart.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, lamented, ‘thousands of stories of interest to each of these communities that would be lost because there are not enough resources to cover them.’ Essentially providing a ‘weekend coverage’ to the news moving forward.

If newsroom convergence wasn’t enough, now we have the perpetual shifting of digital media. Looking back a few years, media executives were locked on the idea that digital platforms were the Rosetta Stone bringing much-needed dollars back into ad revenues. This has not been the case as most analysts agree, ‘media today is forced to embark on the creation and provision of transferable content.’ Traditional methods of newsgathering are declining feeding the rise of content marketing.

Photo Courtesy of GotCredit C.C.

Photo Courtesy of GotCredit C.C.

Journalists as Marketers

Do our journalist friends need to find a new calling in developing content? Is media itself another channel to share content? Will this migration of media talent further erode journalistic integrity? Many questions and few answers.

If we look at purely skills as opposed to ethics, marketers are essentially publishers. And if we look at media institutions as news marketers, these marketers will rely on the experts that intrinsically seek the good stories when developing their content.

This speaks to the essence of Andrea Miller’s analysis, “Career Change. From Journalist to Content Marketer.” She identifies 6 key transferable skills journalists will need as marketers when developing content: “They realize Lines are Blurred, They Cut Through the Jargon, They are Technology-savvy, The Know How to Conduct an Interview, They Meet Deadlines, and They Can Tell a Story.”

In my experience, managing media relations has rarely deviated from the tenets of outstanding customer service. Traditional media, as part of a larger digital and social tactical array, will always be central to our overall strategic planning.

Earned media will never waver from being the hallmark of your media success.

Photo Courtesy of Doctor Popular C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Doctor Popular C.C.

A New Relationship Management System

 As professionals, we need to do our best to meet the expectations of an industry in constant flux. We must tweak our approach and redefine our expectations. Below lie 6 basic rules. Some old some new but all critical towards providing excellent relationship management to our partners.

  1. Be Relevant

Cross-platform repurposing is a common tactic when practising an integrated communications strategy. Take the time to provide them with a unique and informative story. Research what is topical and look to build your pitch around what is relevant – today. Provide your media with elements and leads when building the stories that resonate above the usual diet of ribbon cuttings and product launches. Keep the message tight for the reporter. Always think to repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.

  1. Amplify Their Work

Layout for them how you will be positioning their story in your media strategy. Inform them of the media channels that will be utilized in order to amplify their contribution to the overall story. How their article or interview is ‘getting out’ and how critical it is towards providing the ‘right content’ for the right audience. Practice your 360-degree approach to integrated communications and marketing and share this with your media partners.

  1. Recognizing and Foster Content Publishing

Explore with your partner how his/her job has shifted regarding recent media landscape changes. Are they needing more video than previously? What platforms are they tasked with providing content for? Without a news at noon and the ‘6’ deadlines, ask about their new publishing deadlines. Remember, content publishing means both video and written. Use your expertise to help them understand how you can help them continue to provide top quality content.

  1. Understand Brand Journalism Needs

Brand journalism is becoming more and more popular for many journalists leaving print and broadcast organizations. Recognizing this new job description will help us understand what constitutes a brand journalist and what they are looking for from you. After all, you are also educating yourself.

  1. Always be Available and Reliable

This rule should never change. Utilize new technologies to help keep in contact with your media partner. Twitter direct messaging is a good example. When in doubt, ask.

Often deadlines are fluctuant across multiple platforms. This means you need to be reliable with media tools so they can plan accordingly. Having everything ready and neatly assembled primed to be tucked under their arms, or shoved into their pockets. This form of reliability along with being available at all times keeps your partner congruent when meeting their deadlines.

Reliability also means making sure our expert spokespersons are media trained, well rehearsed and positioned for illuminating interviews. Look at all opportunities being dynamic when positioning your experts. ENG can come from not only a news camera but also a regular DSLR or iPhone. Always ask, but be ready just in case.

No matter if you work in A, B or C markets, we as professionals need to shift with the times as much as our media partners. By showing the empathy and respect they deserve, will speak volumes now and down the road when establishing and fostering excellent media relationships.

Our media partners did not ask to be where they are today. Let’s just make it a little easier for them to do their jobs.



3 Easy Steps to Trust Your News.

Fake NewsAs values go, trust sits the highest on most of our moral dashboards. It has been this way for generations etched by the epitaph, “In God we trust.” Right from the get-go, our parents imprinted, “Trust me. You’re not going to want to eat that!” After a week or so with our heads in the toilet bowl, we get it. It only takes us one life lesson to understand how trust is earned. With religious attention, we carry this assurance forward into our daily lives. As we mature, we happily trust all that is earned – including how we get our news.

LikeThe migration to online news.

In 2013, traditional TV news continued to command the lion’s share of viewers at 60 per cent. Social media and newspapers followed in behind with just under 30 per cent and radio even further back at 19 per cent. Moving forward to 2016; viewer numbers continue to increase for social media as Americans now flock to the internet to get their news. Sites such as Buzzfeed, Mashable, Vice and The Verge have replaced more traditional news sources by homogenizing daily events into bite-sized stories. All relentlessly broadcasting through a multitude of social media news feeds and apps. But one in particular – Facebook – clicked its way to the forefront of fake news proliferation.

In May of this year, Pew Research in America reported that a whopping 44 per cent of adults get their daily news now from Facebook. This means, almost half of adult Americans have entrusted Facebook to be their main source for providing ‘credible’ news.

If the news is coming through Facebook, it has to be real. Right? Wrong.

This blind trust not only heralded Facebook into a firestorm of ethics, it eroded the credibility of traditional news reporting and its social media distribution. Facebook, the presumed vanguard of social media practices was no longer able to clean their own house.  All the while, millions of viewers continued to get their news from dubious journalists on shady websites. Money was to be made and opinions indelibly changed by countries such as Russia, Romania and the U.S. Each glorifying the hard graft of creating and spreading false news.

crystal ball

Swaying popular influence.

America was in the throws of a contentious election campaign. Mud was flying everywhere and here-say was abundant as two political parties battled it out for the public’s opinion. Hungry for votes, each engaged in unethical social media practices by developing fake news and memes authored by an army of clandestine journalists. Fake news was now funnelling fiction through Facebook to over 140 million users. By the end stretch of the presidential campaign, fake news was actively helping both political parties build formidable propaganda machines by spreading disinformation and swaying electoral opinion. Even a foreign power had supposedly invested considerable time and effort in spreading negative propaganda to levy support with their choice for president. In December of this year, the CIA officially recognized that Russian-hosted fake news sites were highly influential when determining America’s 45th president. Strategically sanctioned by their leader Vladimir Putin.

So how do we pull ourselves out of the quagmire of mistruths and propaganda and identify fake from real?

Two easy and practical steps can help you regain your trust in news.

BaitStep 1. Beware of click-bait. 

Click-bait is a term relating to links or websites that encourage you to read on. Once you click onto a site, the clicks become revenue generators for suspect web hosts and their authors. In almost all cases, the headlines are false or at the very least, misleading. One of the most notorious examples being, “He Found a Cure for Cancer with This Pill. Now Doctors Hate Him.”

If it seems ridiculous. Then it is!

PegsStep 2. Keep it clean.

One news site proclaiming to be the ‘truth,’ ran the headline, “CNN: ‘Drunk Hillary’ Beat Sh**t Out of Bill Clinton on Election Nite.” This headline is not only crass and illiterate but holds three glaring examples of bad journalism.

First, quoting another news competitor. This would never happen. When have you ever seen or heard of a media competitor mentioned on your favourite broadcast or news site? Unless, as in this case, where you want to deflect the chance of libel when calling Hillary a ‘drunk.’

Then there is the use of profanity. If and when a reputable news organization would need to include profanity, it would be prefaced with a disclaimer. And how about that spelling? Yes, Webster may differ from Oxford, but certainly not when aligning to journalistic writing standards as American Press or Canadian Press guidelines.

Guidelines and standards are the vanguards for quality and journalistic integrity.

News SiteStep 3. With integrity come standards.

With any credible news, the first part of developing a story is fact checking. Be it checking sources or proofing data, by executing this due diligence, your news integrity will gain the trust needed to be YOUR reliable source of information. In Canada, privately held news providers and their social media properties, are held to journalistic ethics by the standards of both the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council. As for public broadcasting, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, represent its ethical framework. All under the approval of the Canadian government’s own watchdog, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.  In print, including many of their online properties, the Canadian Association of Journalists provides similar guidelines and standards. Collectively, these represent the standards of journalism you would expect for news gathering integrity. If you find some of your local news feeds are not following these guidelines, then call them out.  Hold them accountable.

Believe me, their advertisers would not want to be in the middle of a fake news scandal.

SkunkFake news stinks.

Practising these three simple steps in fake news prevention will put you back into the driver’s seat when getting your news.  Remember, trust is gained. Like a bad piece of meat, if smells off then throw it out. Why should your news be any different?

Fake news stinks!

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What Direction Now for Media’s Moral Compass?

Photo Courtesy of Jonathan LaChance CC

Editor’s Note:
Has filling today’s media gullet with “all things Trump,” reduced the role media MUST take when protecting personal information? And if it has, is it complicit when promoting unfavourable national agendas as the recent immigration policy in the States?

Below are my thoughts when this issue popped its ugly head a few years back after the San Bernardino terror event.

— Repost from the summer of 2015

Is Ethical Journalism Dead?

Evidently so if recent events are any indication.

Last week, MSNBC, CNN and other various local affiliates decided to forego ethical behaviour to enrich their coverage of America’s worst mass murder in almost three years. While the world slowly untangled the news of more gun violence coming from the States, local, national and international media decided to follow another lead.

This lead brought them – literally – to the front doorstep of another smaller but important story – media ethics and privacy.

As a person who makes his living creating media strategies, I was shocked to witness what happened last week as mob mentality overruled the tenets of responsible journalism.

Many questions continue to arise from this yellow day in media. Has the pressure to make the ‘6’ cast aside the ability of journalists to practice ethics? Has the voracious appetite for news content every minute of the day erased the parameter of respectable news gathering?

Privacy and Snoops


Photo Courtesy of Gianfranco Marzetti CC

We understand the media has the tendency to be intrusive. Equally, some intrusion into privacy can be essential towards informing the public. Responsible reporting has the ability to grow the story by telling an accurate account of the event or happening. It is only when we cross this line that media is presented with an ethical dilemma.

How much information do we share so the viewer is informed?

In the case of terror suspects Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, personal assets including passport documents, social security cards, photographs and worst of all, a baby’s crib, were displayed in HD splendour. Why these items were still on site and not in FBI inventory is a puzzle, but was there really the need for viewers to know the colour of the baby’s onesie? Thereby offering a clue to his/her identity? What about the photographs containing images of other persons that have not released their image to the media? Are they elemental to the right of information versus the right of privacy?

Absolutely not. And yet reporters took the effort to lay these items out to solicit sensational viewership.

Interpretation of Policy

Bull Horn_Fotor

Photo Courtesy of The Library of Congress CC

Here in Canada, individual media by practice have their own ethical guidelines that stipulate particular behaviour in newsgathering. By example, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Journalistic Standards and Practices states under “Fairness, ‘In our information gathering and reporting, we treat individuals and organizations with openness and respect. We are mindful of their rights. We treat them even-handedly.’”

It makes you wonder if the language was intentionally vague to support more leverage when intruding on personal privacy.

The Canadian Association of Journalist expands on CBC’s guideline by adding, “However, there are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy and the rights of all citizens to be informed about matters of public interest. Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.”

Let’s look at the last part of this statement, “Each situation should be judged in light of common sense, humanity and relevance.” With the understanding, I am basing my criticism on Canadian ethos of journalism, did the BBC, MSNBC, et al in San Bernardino, have ‘common sense’ when videotaping photographs of persons not associated with the two suspects? It’s also important to note, the suspects were not deemed terrorists by the FBI until the 5th of December.

And let’s not forget the ‘relevance’ of videotaping the washroom. Remember only psychos and murderers have messy washrooms! Right?

Language is Everything

Wires 1

Photo Courtesy of Nathalie Capitan CC

A day following the San Bernardino media circus, The Society of Professional Journalists in the States released a statement saying, “Walking into a building and live broadcasting the pictures, addresses and other identifying information of children or other people who may have no involvement in the story does not represent best and ethical practices.”

A statement carefully crafted not to call down the recent exploits of its members, but merely a gentle slap on the wrist.

What message does this send out to the general public when dealing with media? How can the public continue to trust the media to withhold their privacy with no recourse to improper process?

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) one of the media members reporting the San Bernardino suspects home, and one of the most respected international news organizations, seem to be very clear regarding their broadcast privacy policy, “The BBC will respect privacy and will not infringe on it without good reason, wherever in the world we are operating. Private behaviour, information, correspondence and conversation will not be brought into the public domain unless there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

The language almost completely supports the broadcaster having the last say whether, “there is a public interest that outweighs the expectation of privacy.”

Clearly, broadcasters and media have a job to do by informing the public of issues and incidents that may impact their safety and well-being. The problem lies in the interpretation of ‘responsibility’ when privacy is concerned. As shown in California, the ethical process was unfettered and improvident. Not a single ounce of ‘responsibility’ was practised by any broadcaster that day.



The privacy of an individual continues to be centre regarding this issue, but what happens when the breach is reflective of an entire culture or religion? Especially relevant in these days of terror.

In the San Bernardino experience, we see ONE particular lifestyle on display – not all. But alas, the media in their frenzy to parlay any form of ethical behaviour in favour of ratings, paraded various artefacts including the Koran in front of the world. Sound bites emphasised these were ‘Muslim’ items and emblazoned this information across the TV screen.

A reckless exercise creating a stigma that all American ‘Muslim’ apartments contain the same contents and ideology.

Fortunately, many self-respecting Americans immediately lashed back through Twitter with the hashtag #MuslimApartment or #MyMuslimApartment. Their tweets offered the world a glimpse inside their homes sharing personal property as American football jerseys and Disney play figures. A resolute statement from American Muslims proud of their nationality and quick to remind the media not to forget, “…common sense, humanity and relevance,” when reporting their stories.

The media are integral to the business of sharing information for the public’s well-being. As citizens, we just need reassurance that the media follow the same set of common sense privacy guidelines we use every day. Especially in times of terrorism and mistrust.