Over the years, this job has changed so much. If I were to delve into all of the changes in my 25 years on patrol with the pen, people who aren’t in the business would be so bored, they’d probably start searching YouTube for the latest piano-playing-cat video.
See, technology really has made us more sophisticated. And more impatient. People, without a hint of self-awareness, say, “I’m too busy to read the paper” or they post, “OMG, I’m sooooooo busy, don’t know how I’m going to get everything done today,” then proceed to post a laundry list of their monotonous activities for the day.
Well, you can check that important Facebook post off the list now, can’t you, you go-getter?!
They will read every comment posted about an article, then pick out one ambiguous word or phrase that was in the thread of posts — not in the article — then write a rambling thesis in response, blasting the paper along the way.
But that same person — again, without a hint of self-awareness — will say, “Oh, I didn’t read the article. I don’t trust the media.”
So, you just squinted at your phone screen to read 2,500 words, half of which had to be translated from Textese and Autocorrect, but you didn’t have time to read a 600-word article in bold 10-point type that’s (usually) written in clear, concise language? And you believe social media is more reliable than the newspaper?
Sure, OK. I respect your opinion … and pray that you get spayed or neutered. Then again, with your face in your screens all of the time, we probably don’t have anything to worry about, as long as your devices don’t sprout a reproductive system. Please use a condom, just in case.
Smartphones/tablets and the Internet aren’t what’s killing newspapers, magazines and other print publications, as popular sentiment says. No, that started with the proliferation of corporate ownership of media outlets (a subject we’ve written about numerous times over the years). But It’s been hastened by the dumbing-down effect of devices that were created by smart people to give users the appearance and security of “being connected.” They’re such a part of some people’s lives, their use gives them the sense of always being “busy, busy, busy.”
They’re always reading and being “informed,” but they only digest 120 characters (or fewer) at a time. They may do that a couple hundred times a day. But they don’t have time to read an 800-word opinion column. Is there a Common Core math equation that will help me compute and show the folly of that?
The Internet hasn’t done as much to destroy print publications as social media has done to destroy nuanced thought, and the consequences of that are way more destructive to society as a whole …
But enough about the differences, before my head explodes.
Something that hasn’t changed is the two most common types of people we in the media have to deal with on a regular basis: Those who will run over their mother to get in front of a reporter with a camera and those will run over their mother to get away from a reporter with a camera.
Those are the two extremes that get the majority of our attention, and that’s true in large, medium, small and micro markets. The people we appreciate most are those who dutifully answer questions and/or give information because they want people to be informed or drew the short straw when it came to committee assignments in their civic club.
Shameless self-promoters make my skin crawl. Those who duck and dodge make me determined to track them down, then make the story twice as big as it would have been if they’d just cooperated.
The downsizing and disbanding of newspapers across the country has had one positive effect — it means that almost every government agency has a PR person who does know how to write a press release and get information published. That’s a plus considering how newsrooms have been gutted …
But still, too many local organizations and individuals have no idea how to get something in the paper. We’ll take the blame for that because there is no guide. If you catch us on deadline (Monday, Wednesday, Friday before 3 p.m.) or buried in an assignment (all the other times), that’s bad timing.
This isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means, but following are a few helpful hints.
If you really want to put a bad taste in my mouth (literally), try to entice me to come cover your event by saying, “We’ll feed you!” People have been offering that enticement for years. What they don’t realize is that I’d rather come home to my daughter and eat Saltines, thank you very much. But if you really want me to come, then offer me an open bar and a ride home. Or better yet, tell me you’d just like my company, no need to bring the notebook and camera … Ha!
If you’re a non-profit that just wants a little exposure and/or to announce a special event, email us or come in and ask not what your community paper can do for you, ask what you can do for your community paper. And don’t demand that it “run three times” before the event. We’ll run it when/if we have space. If you want to guarantee that it be published when you dictate, how you dictate, we’ll direct you to the advertising department … which leads to my next hint.
If you’re a for-profit business or venture, you need to understand that we are, too. So, either buy an ad or bring some information that has real news value to the community as a whole, not just to your bottom line. And if you really want us to make a big splash, tell us before you blast it all over Facebook and schedule the ribbon-cutting.
Feed us information our readers want to devour. And please feed the rubber chicken from your banquet to someone else.
Mark Thornton is chief of the Leader-Call. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.