“Brave News Worlds” A Game-Changer for PR?

by coach on September 22, 2010

Brave News Worlds - IPI Report

A new report “Brave News Worlds: Navigating the New Media Landscape” provides an intriguing view of the future of journalism and the new media landscape. It’s a game-changer for public relations too.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) and the US Poynter Institute collaborated on this important report. It features 42 essays by leading thinkers on the future of the news industry and looks at  where the news media is thriving despite the economic downturn. With case studies from 20 countries, contributors included leading bloggers, editors, journalists, consultants and media law experts.

The result is an outstanding report that’s essential reading for public relations professionals too. It’ll help us get a fix on the future of news media and its impact on PR.

Bill Mitchell, editor of the report says, “Gone are the days of woe is us.” The writers reflect concern but also share optimism for the survival of the news industry

Mitchell adds, “What’s emerging is a much sharper focus on how news can survive and even thrive going forward. The report provides special emphasis on the relationship between journalism and civic life, with specific, useful examples of who’s doing what around the world to sustain the critical linkage between the two.”

Key Findings Critical for PR Professionals

The report offers key insights for PR professionals including:

  • The emergence of the so-called Fifth Estate – bloggers and others whose work usually does not generate the bulk (or any) of their income and, as with the fourth estate or mainstream media, the importance of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
  • The obstacles facing the journalism business and the business of journalism – that is, business versus free or “public service.”
  • The value and values of citizen journalism, crowd sourcing and social media – how do they fit with traditional news?
  • The challenge of sustaining diverse news presentation in an era of customization and “the Daily Me.” Clay Shirkey highlights the challenge: “The shock of inclusion is coming from the outside in, driven not by the professionals formerly in charge, but by the former audience. It is also being driven by new entrepreneurs, the men and women who want to build new kinds of sites and services that assume, rather than ignore, the free time and talents of the public.”
  • Media freedom without media power? New media business models will have to survive in a very different economic model and operating environment.
  • Securing coverage of the “Commons” – Journalism must fashion new ways of old-style editorial decision-making to preserve the important values of accuracy, fairness, integrity, and transparency in the news. For example, it must find new ways to integrate news from eyewitnesses before or without journalists on the scene. That takes the talent and experience of an editor! The race to be first with the news carries both risks and opportunities.

As Mitchell says in his introduction, “Around the globe, journalists and their collaborators are discovering the tools and tactics that can yield new routes for news and, in the process, protect the rights common to us all.”

When you look at these “brave news worlds” as a PR pro, it’s easy to foresee the implications. We’re already dealing with some of these “new media” challenges:

  • Pitching bloggers who have no editorial oversight is riskier; we’re already wrestling with that.
  • The speed at which news moves creates big problems when the story is wrong or worse. Correcting the record is a huge job.
  • Who will you pitch at new powerful news entities such as AOL, Yahoo News or Google News, if anyone?
  • The need for quick response is even more critical to ensure you have an adequate “share of the voice” in a story and that others don’t drown out your voice because you couldn’t respond fast enough.
  • PR pros are now moving as quickly as we can to learn new ways to talk directly to all the other audiences and stakeholders where previously we only had to talk to journalists to do our jobs well.
  • Some of our old “tools” like news releases don’t work as well any more. New tools and channels such as YouTube demand new communication talents
  • We have less control of message and it must meet the needs of diverse audiences
  • Fragmentation of traditional and social media makes delivery more difficult
  • The near impossibility of keeping tabs on coverage and choosing where or how to respond most effectively.

Journalists and PR pros are both learning social media as fast as we can but it is a challenging new “brave news world” for all. Let’s hope that the “new media” of the future will still be viable and will protect the important news values that are so important. Regardless, we both must adapt or die.

This report is valuable and thoughtful PR reading and can be downloaded at the Poynter Institute website.

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