Journalists and the work overload – and how good PR pros can benefit

Journalists face a work overload like never before.

I remember when  we first started publishing online. I served as managing editor for two community weekly newspapers. We had a feisty little staff that worked hard as they could. Maybe 1 story in 15 was suitable for both papers, The average reporter turned out 8-10 stories per week, typed obits and press releases, composed church and community announcements, and even laid out a few pages.

Then we got the website. I don’t remember the year, but maybe mid-1990s.

Dutifully, I was trained on how to update the website, how to put our stories online, and voila – we were cutting edge!

Except it wasn’t. It took hours to update the website. It was early days of digital publishing, so we didn’t have the platforms we have now. We were dial up. With old freaking computers. This work overload lasted about 3 issues and we decided it wasn’t worth it.

Work overload

Fast forward 15 or 17 years and I’m the executive editor and publisher for a Gannett property. Under my umbrella was a daily newspaper, three weekly newspapers, a monthly magazine, some specialized publications, and websites and social media for all. Adding to the fun were the annual, and sometimes twice annual, layoffs, which usually hit the newsroom. By the time I left my role, my reporters were expected to:

  • Write stories for print.
  • Write stories for digital. Sometimes these were the same for print, sometimes not.
  • Write a blog.
  • Write separate niche content.
  • Do a podcast.
  • Write social media content.
  • Live Tweet for sports, breaking news, or government meetings.
  • Take your own photos AND videos with your iPhone.
  • And yes, type obituaries, press releases, and community/church announcements.

They had to do this for all the aforementioned publications.

It was ridiculous. And on top of it all, you knew in six months your work overload was going to intensify because Gannett was going to cut your newsroom.

If Muck Rack’s State of Journalism report is to be believed, and it is reliable, things have not gotten better.

The Good PR Pros

The lady did some local PR work. Mostly local nonprofits focusing on event promotions, but she also helped a few local mom & pop small businesses. She was former journalist.

word overload

Journalists are overloaded. This represents opportunity for a good PR professional.

He press releases were emailed, both attached and in the body of the email. She always included a photo (with an offer of more). The photo always included a well written caption and photo credit. Her stories were just about always written in the inverted pyramid, and what Gannett once called the “first five paragraph” format – tell the whole story in the first five grafs, and use the rest for supporting material.

Immaculately edited. Journalistically written.

And I published them as is. Copy, paste, done. 

Here’s why. She offered a story written in a news style, without any fluff or discernable “PR” in it. Of course she was promoting the business or event, but she gave me a copy-and-paste usable news story that was mine.

The local radio station? She arranged interviews, but from time to time, she recorded her own interviews and sent them in. The news director said they were flawlessly done, she kept them short, and he could air the interview anytime – or multiple times – of the day.

Today in technology, plug and play is the name of the game.

It should be that way in PR too. Write your general press releases. Make your media pitches. But try it out. Write a news story on your client, something that reads like a story in the paper (or website, or TV station, or whatever) and see what kind of play you get.

Or do the interview yourself. Tell the journalist you’ve not written the story (but are happy to), but can give the reporter good quotes, photos, other visuals, data, etc. It works.

It will help journalists with their work overload. It will help your client. And it’ll read great.

If you need help with your media relations, content development, and marketing efforts, feel free to reach out.