Journalists are only interested in bad news… Aren’t they?

I hear this mantra all the time from people about people like me – and it always shows me people don’t think through where news comes from.

News comes from human beings who are doing things – journalists have no magic wands, their job is not rocket science, it’s about dealing with and
spreading information.

Bad – or unusual and quirky – stories attract a lot of attention, people can feel it more keenly. That’s why it appears journalists are only interested in bad news.

However if you take a local newspaper for a week or a month and actually mark out how many good and bad news stories are within its pages – you’ll be surprised at the results.

The agenda of the local and regional press may be different to the national press but being clear about a publication (on or offline) and its agenda is fairly easy.

For example, you probably immediately know an article in The Sun or The Daily Mail, might have a different angle using the same facts as an article in The Daily Telegraph or The Sunday Times.

Recently I was told a local newspaper had printed ‘lies’ about a court case in which someone was involved. I was told the paper printed those lies without checking first these things were true. The person who said this clearly didn’t understand the context in which these ‘lies’ were told – and the journalist had done nothing wrong.

Journalists are protected by privilege in a court of law where someone is almost always telling a lie. As long as the report of WHAT WAS SAID in court was balanced, fair and used in a timely manner, then no law has been broken.

“If you are building a brand, publicising an event, you have to make it stand out from the crowd, make it easy for the journalist to use your story and trust the information.”  Tweet This!

So if someone lies about your business in a court of law and a journalist is there and reports it (and you are not there or have not put your side of the story) you have no automatic right of reply to allegations explored in court.

If you are in business – don’t assume you can demand things from a journalist just because you are thinking ‘that’s unfair’, ‘that’s invading my privacy’ or ‘that’s a lie’. You need to think about the context – you need to ask questions. This is particularly true if you or your business faces a ‘bad news’ situation.

The truth is bad news reaches the public domain very quickly in the UK and it’s easily accessible. It’s a mistake to hope a problem will just go away.

Often bad news will involve a public body– these are accountable, spending our money and they have to be seen to be doing their job. So bad news can come via the police, the ambulance service, the local authority, industrial tribunals, courts, etc.

Good news is much harder to see for a journalist because it’s so commonplace. There are good news stories all around us. Did someone smile at you today? Were babies born at the local hospital today? Was it someone’s birthday today? Do you expect all of these ‘good news’ stories to make headlines?

So if you are building a brand, publicising an event, you have to make it stand out from the crowd, make it easy for the journalist to use your story and trust the information. Like anything else it needs to be packaged correctly to have a chance of publication.

Tip: There are no guarantees with PR – it’s about playing the odds, knowing the law in bad news situations, hitting the right note at the right time and acting quickly when positive opportunities arise.

By Fiona Scott

www.fionascottmediaconsultancy.co.uk

Read more articles like this in Women’s Business News 

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