Saturday, July 07, 2007

Give Press a Chance

Friday (July 6, 2007) brought an example of how not to interact with the press.

It seems there was a very significant ceremony going on at City Hall Friday morning, but authorities did not seek coverage until the event was actually taking place. I received a phone call from the mayor's office at 9:45 a.m. to cover the event. Now, if I hadn't already had another assignment at 10 a.m., I could have sprinted the half-block from my home to City Hall and made an effort to get the story.

As it was, I had to go on with my scheduled assignment.

Optimally, media requests for planned events are made at least a week ahead of time. Properly, the request goes to the editor, who then assigns a reporter. Calling a reporter at home to show up immediately is not acceptable.

The media's inability to respond to a "positive" story at the last minute is not a show of disrespect for those involved, it is simply a matter of logistics. Except for breaking news, most of a newspaper's content comes from scheduled assignments. Requests for coverage are best made in writing or by e-mail, listing the time, date and place of the event and why it is newsworthy. In this case, the ceremonies included swearing-in of the city's first female firefighter.

I retired as a reporter just about four years ago. The blog started two years ago. It is only recently that I have also been freelancing. With changes in the newspaper industry, there is much more leeway for community interaction with the print media. Still, there is some protocol to be observed.

What happened Friday is likely to be misunderstood by some as yet another slight by the media, even as city officials are condemning journalists and bloggers. Others may understand that news gatherers need some modicum of cooperation from those who want coverage. In this case, the firefighters and their families must have had some advance notice of the event. Expecting a reporter to respond on a moment's notice just doesn't seem right.

--Bernice Paglia


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