Each month we reach out to journalists and media professionals to chat with them about their experiences in the industry. July’s edition ‘Questions for Journalists’ features Amanda Stephenson, Postmedia reporter in Calgary covering Business.
What story that you’ve written are you most proud of?
I often get asked this question, and it’s a hard one to answer! I went to Haiti in 2010 to write a feature series on an Alberta charity’s efforts to help that country rebuild in the aftermath of a major earthquake. I was very proud of that series, because of the effort and time involved, but a story doesn’t necessarily have to be a 5,000 word feature or require multiple days of work for me to feel good about it. I currently write about Business, and I get a lot of story assignments that involve complicated or technical subject matter. If I can take a tough topic, ask the right questions so that I understand it myself, and then write it clearly and concisely for a general interest audience, I feel pretty good about my day.
In what ways do you believe social media has changed journalism?
It’s changed it profoundly in a short amount of time, and there are pros and cons for reporters. On the one hand, social media has the potential to greatly expand journalists’ reach because there is no limit to how many times your stories can be shared and retweeted. It also makes it so much easier to find sources and story ideas and to connect with readers. But the same reporters who used to have a whole day to double-check facts and search for more sources before publishing their stories are now under pressure to tweet the news minutes after it happens — which can lead to mistakes, sometimes big ones. I also think social media can make reporters lazy. I’m not a big fan of stories that do nothing more than sum up online reaction to a news event — the “residents took to Twitter to express their disapproval” kind of stories. As journalists, we all need to get out from behind our desks and smartphones and talk to people in the real world more often.
What advice do you have for PR professionals about working with journalists?
Understand that my inbox gets flooded with 20-25 pitches every day. If I’m interested in your story, I WILL call you. Please don’t call me at 3 p.m. to ask if I’ve seen your pitch — I am on deadline and don’t have time to talk to you at that point. In my opinion, the best pitches come from PR professionals who have taken the time to learn about what I write and have targeted their pitch accordingly. I’m far more likely to pay attention to a pitch that says “I read your story about Topic X and thought you might be interested in this related angle” than a generic news release. Finally, I would add that while your job probably seems thankless at times, journalists really do appreciate a PR professional who works to establish a relationship with them, respects their time, and does what they can to help them get their story.
Have a story you would like to share? Let us know on Twitter at @PRTheAgency or in the comment section below!