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Newsrooms Are Shrinking; Will PR Adjust?

Author: Courtney Merolle
August 18, 2021

It comes as no surprise to hear that newsrooms are shrinking; it’s a trend we have seen unfold for years, and it is only gaining momentum as the pandemic continues to wreak long-lasting havoc on our everyday lives. 

According to “Fun Facts about the News Industry’s Financial Struggles as McClatchy Files for Bankruptcy,” a compilation of data from the Pew Research Center published in February 2020, the newspaper industry was already facing severe hardships pre-pandemic. 

  • U.S. newspaper circulation fell in 2018 to its lowest level since 1940, the first year with available data. 
  • The employment at U.S. newspapers dropped by nearly half (47%) between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 workers to 38,000. 

The degradation of the newsroom is rooted in changing reader preferences, a lack of trust, and the growing disconnect between media and its consumers. In April of 2019, President Trump’s declaration that the press is the “enemy of the people” took root, and survey results in July of 2019 confirmed that one-third of Americans agreed with the sentiment

As PR professionals, we must utilize swiftness, flexibility and adaptability to continue to get coverage for our  clients. We often say that we are an extension of our clients’ teams. Now, we’re also an extension of the newsroom. 

Here are the best ways to  work with today’s media:

Provide Timely, Factual Content, Not Thinly Veiled Self-Promotion

As fewer journalists are available to produce the same amount of news, content that is accurate and current and that provides everything the writer will need is more important than ever.  Clients offering content that is helpful to the audience, rather than self-promotional, will have the greatest media relations success.

Drafting an At-a-Glance Email

Journalists are getting upwards of 100 email pitches a day. PR needs to think not just about the content of their emails but also the layout. A short subject line and a leading sentence that answers the who, what and why of the topic make it easier for writers to navigate their inboxes. 

Know Who You’re Emailing

With fewer journalists in the newsroom, clear-cut beats are a thing of the past. PR needs to dedicate more time to understanding who they’re emailing – as writers who were once dedicated to breaking news, the economy or regional stories are now getting pulled into a wider variety of pieces due to limited bandwidth. 

Show the Love 

Regardless of the industry, social media is vital to decision-making. When a story is published, show your support on social media platforms and tag the writer and media outlet. Their goal is to get eyes on their content in a highly competitive environment, and your support goes a long way. 

These ever-changing times prove PR agency success is highly dependent upon adaptability. As the newsroom’s day-to-day reality has shifted, agencies must pivot to better meet the needs of overworked journalists and deliver consistent client coverage within a fluctuating industry.