The New Power of the Press

Last night I attended a dinner organized by local Innovation Economy “catalyst” Scott Kirsner, columnist for the Boston Globe.  (You can read about the dinner itself on my other blog on Mass Innovation Nights.  Since this is my blog for PR and Marketing people, I’ll look at the evening from a different perspective.) 

Scott assembled a stellar crew, all movers and shakers in the local tech community.  (Admittedly, most of the crew are out and about in the evenings on a regular basis anyway but to be able to get them all in the room at the same time was impressive.)

While others are bemoaning the “death of the media” there is still a ready acknowledgment that their reach still far outstrips even the most powerful and widely read blogs.  I’ve told many people the story of my October 2008 media blitz on behalf of the Beacon Street Girls where we appeared in every major publication you can think of,  USA Today, New York Times, LA Times, NPR but still the impact on our website traffic paled in comparison next to a front page link from, the portal for kid’s games which had the capacity to deliver thousands of preteen girls.  That story is more an illustration of targeting the proper audience than a true indicator of reach.  (Ask me if I would have “given up” any of that mass media coverage.)

Last night’s assemblage is an indication of the reach of the mass media.  It’s also an indicator of the changing role of columnists and reporters.  Far from the totally unbiased reporters of the news, they also have the ability to make the news. (As a columnist and blogger for the Globe, I would hope there is a general perception that it is OK for Scott to be a supporter and cheerleader and to have an opinion.)

The new mass media can be in the room when the planning happens and get access to the news in a way that previous arms-length relationships might not have allowed.  They can put people in the room.

So where are the other examples of the mass media working on solving the problems of today’s society?  Where are they getting involved and bringing together people to solve major issues?

And, should they being doing so?

As a communications professional and a PR person, how should you advise your clients about situations like this?  Every media trainer I have ever worked with generally exhorts trainees to “never go off the record.”  (The thought being that by sharing the knowledge you are running the “risk” of it getting out, either on purpose or by accident.)  Another media training truism, “the most “dangerous” reporter is the one you are friends with.” You tend to tell them things you would never tell another reporter because you are comfortable with them.

This adversarial and overly controlling approach to media relations doesn’t take into account the new power of the mass media, where reporters can be sitting the same room and sharing the same goals and tackling problems side-by-side with you.

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