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Is the media really a feral beast?

June 22nd, 2007

An op-ed appearing in today’s Wall Street Journal discusses U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent diatribe against the media as a “feral beast – just tearing people and reputations to shreds.”  Apparently, the Brits aren’t too thrilled about Blair’s scolding.  It’s become a hotbed of an issue, and rightly so.  It raises some interesting questions: What is the media’s role?  How blurred are the lines between fact and comment and public and private lives?

For this conversation, let’s limit the focus of discussion to print media – history’s most traditional and conventional medium for relaying the news.  First published in 1605, the newspaper, once the go-to source for all newsworthy events, is at a crossroads.  In a new technology age with the Internet, radio, TV, blogs, vlogs, and rss driving the media war, newspapers have had to reassess their business strategies to compete.

So what, then, is a newspaper’s role in today’s society?  And, how do we define what is newsworthy and what is not?  Newspapers are charged with delivering the day’s most important, relevant and worthy current events. But are some ditching quality, factual reporting in favor of rumors, scandal, and opinion? Are they becoming “viewspapers,” as Blair refers to them?

There are two important points to remember about newspapers:

1. There’s a place for both news and views
2. Every newspaper has a different vibe

First, remember that most newspapers do have opinions sections, letters to the editor sections, and – often – sections for style, restaurant reviews, and the latest and greatest tech gadget.  Good newspapers limit “opinion” pieces to these sections – and dedicate their news sections to actual news.  It’s when the “current news” section features Jennifer Aniston’s latest flavor of love or a biased rant on America’s obligation to save Iraqi refugees that it becomes a “viewspaper.”

Keep in mind also that every paper has a different vibe – some local, some national, some finance-focused, some politically-focused.  And they all have their slant and reputation: “The People Paper,” “McPaper,” etc.

From a PR standpoint, it is important to remember a few things: remember the audience you’re hoping to reach; remember the type of information you want to impart; and find the right publication that will best articulate your message.  Hopefully, it won’t be the National Enquirer you’re targeting.  But, then again, who am I to offer my “view?”

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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