New Jersey PR Students and Professionals “Meet the Media”

PRSA NJ Members Pitch the Region’s Top Publishers, Social Media & Journalists

A panel of the New Jersey leading media players brought an audience of PR pros and Rutgers students “Inside the New Newsroom” on April 3rd, explaining the many ways technology and competition are transforming the mass communications industry.

The presentation, held at the university’s Livingston campus in Piscataway, NJ, was part of PRSA NJ’s annual “Meet the Media” event. BurrellesLuce, of Florham Park, a leader of media monitoring and analytic software, sponsored the session and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists assisted in recruiting the media planel.

Moderator, Ken Hunter APR , joined audience members in a steady flow of questions to the panel about how the changes impacting media could alter the way PR professionals get their clients’ messages delivered.

Ken, a PRSA NJ board member and Director of Marketing & Communications at NAFA Fleet Management Association in Princeton, began by asking what factors are reshaping traditional jobs such as reporter or editor:

More Reliance on Analytics. Media staff and management now use analytics and statistics to determine which news stories engage audiences — and which topics don’t generate enough “clicks” and “likes” online. Sometimes a worthwhile article or post is undermined by a confusing headline, or is lost in the frenzy of an unusually crowded news day.

Christina Paciolla, Editor and East Region News Supervisor at Associated Press, admitted making a “deep dive” into media analytics and data but added, “If you think you have a good story, we’re going to tell it…….We’re going to look back [at why an initial post got a poor response], we’re going to use the analytics to move forward.”

More Work from Fewer Full-Time Staff. Staff reductions at many media outlets mean that an individual reporter must be able to write, shoot video stories, and promote their work through social media accounts. Editors must edit in multiple formats.

Immediate Deadlines. Fierce competition from professional media outlets as well as growing numbers of amateur social media “newsmakers” have accelerated the pace of a daily news cycle. “Gone are the days of going to your assignment and meeting your deadline,” noted correspondent Briana Vannozzi of NJTV News. That’s just the start of promoting a story “throughout the day, throughout the night…”

Added Alice Gainer, a reporter with CBS 2 NY who routinely follows up her broadcast stories on Twitter, Facebook and CBS’ digital channel, ”We’re constantly updating our stories throughout the day; you have to file multiple reports, we keep updating it. You could be live any point of the day now…”

More Reliance on Freelance Staff. Another trend among media outlets is increased use of freelance writers and reporters. “The reason media outlets outsource things more is that they don’t want to hire full-time people that they have to pay well…” observed Jane Primerano, a freelance writer with American Farm Publications and Lee Newspapers. She added, “It’s very important to specialize..” since freelancers still need a solid background of knowledge on the issues they cover in order to succeed.

Anthony Birritteri, Editor-In-Chief of New Jersey Business magazine, explained that the need for more online content – rather than money issues — was NJB’s motivation for hiring freelance talent. “I’ve been with the magazine 30 years. When I first started, we just had the monthly print publication. With the advent of the internet, we are now [a] daily.” Their web traffic and 4pm daily broadcast required so much more writing that freelance writers were brought in to assist the existing staff.

The panel soon turned to questions of whether the quality and accuracy of news in the current media environment had been undermined in recent years:

Has high online traffic become the media’s top priority? Hunter Hulburt, Editor & Social Media Manager for the Jersey’s Best website, said their platform seeks to “entice” a large online audience without resorting to misleading headlines or exaggerated information. Their staff avoids sensationalizing a story or rushing to post unverified content. Instead, readers attracted to the site find accurate, detailed articles.

AP’s Christina Paciolla commented that analytic data showing at what point readers stop reading an article helps their staff craft more effective stories. It is one of several ways to identify the “most important and interesting part of a story” and make it the focus of a revised article that reaches and engages more people. Sometimes changing the headline on a story several times throughout a news cycle also keeps it visible and “fresh” for a larger audience.

In a world of “fake news”, anonymous sources, and “citizen journalists”, how can media outlets determine if a news source is real?.  As a PBS affiliate, NJTV is bound by protocols with the goal of delivering the most accurate report of a news item or event, not being the first outlet to go public. To that end, it requires at least two or three verified source to confirm a story, including a relevant government agency. Information presented by whistleblowers must be backed up by reliable records and other credible witnesses. At CBS 2 NY, written statements are not featured unless the source agrees to answer questions about it on camera first.

According to freelance writer Jane Primerano, the best way that a reporter or writer can avoid being accused of being a biased, unreliable source themselves is to ensure that the top priority in preparing a story is “…accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.”

Following the panel, the six guest speakers conducted one-on-one conversations with PR professionals and PRSSA students in attendance who pitched the media experts on a range of potential stories to cover.

For more information on upcoming PRSA NJ events, visit https://prsanj.org/events/

Moderator Ken Hunter, APR, kicks off a round of questions for NJTV’s Briana Vannozzi and her media colleagues.
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