We are big fans of David Henderson. An award-winning former journalist, Henderson tells it like it is and he doesn’t pull any punches. In many ways, he reminds me of some of the diehard news journalists I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with when I was at Maclean’s. Getting the story was what they lived for; covering breaking news and explaining what was happening and why to our readers was their reason for being. And they didn’t hold back when they had something to say – like Henderson.
His recent blog post talks about what news media is like today, and what that means for the news we see and read as consumers. That made me think about how much journalism and the news that comes into our homes each day has evolved over the past two decades. I know that magazine journalism has changed since I worked at Maclean’s. It had to. The morning and evening news has changed too, and it continues to change.
I have a television in my office. Not only does it make me really popular during events like the Olympics, but it also allows me to have different news channels playing throughout the day. I don’t sit there and stare at the TV. Sometimes the sound is off so I can concentrate (although I grew up at Maclean’s, so I can work pretty much in any busy, noisy, stressy environment). I get a taste of several news and talk shows each day and there are times when something catches my interest and I think: “Well, that’s changed.”
As a communicator this is important on several levels. How we pitch media has changed and how people hear or take in information has changed as well. Now, I am not saying that your daily newspaper or evening news should be the standard by which you communicate. I’m saying that it is important to review all media forms – from the newspaper to the nightly news to community papers to cable network talk shows to blogs, Facebook and Twitter – with a view of looking at the language being used, the topics being covered and the amount of time or space allotted to them. Check the newspaper comments online and see what elements are creating discussion among the readers; follow the nightly anchor’s Twitter feed and see what people are saying about the broadcast. Find out what resonates and why. Understand how information is being communicated today – don’t assume it’s the same way as yesterday. Identify the realities of the situation so you know what is and isn’t an appropriate pitch to media currently. If there are situations like Henderson points out, where the media seem to be ignoring a big story, find an alternative distribution channel for it: your blog, a guest blog post, a video segment or link to the information on social networking sites.
The news media is a lot different than it was even five years ago. Make sure you stay up-to-date with your current affairs.