Award-winning PR thoughts: Newspaper deaths and births

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At times even award-winning PR professionals can feel a little glum at the shape of the modern media. And that’s not a slant on the online content war being waged by every publication still in existence.
Instead, it’s a sweeping, state of the nation (and indeed wider world) comment that really nods towards the way in which many editorial staff members are treated at work, and viewed by the public. In the wake of News of the World and other titles being exposed for phone hacking the reputation of journalists has unarguably plummeted, meanwhile continued cut backs and redundancies almost across the board (certainly in terms of print) point to a never-before-seen level of pressure for fewer people to do more jobs, with faster turnaround times.
Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of maintaining a professional industry. And, although we love a writer who welcomes pitches from PR agencies, it goes without saying this extends well beyond picking up the most interesting press releases. A train of thought inspired by the sad news that Ben Bradlee passed away yesterday, aged 93; a tragic loss of a real spokesperson for press freedoms and the need to get to the truth of the matter.
For those unaware, this was the chap who turned the Washington Post from simply another U.S. newspaper to one of the most respected publications in the world. As editor, he oversaw the exposure of one of the most significant scandals of the 20th Century, encouraging two reporters to dig ever-deeper into what exactly went on late one night at the Watergate Hotel, resulting in the resignation of Richard Nixon, and creating the longstanding nickname, Tricky Dicky, in the process.
As a story, it needs no introduction, but the impact of those revelations certainly warrants a couple of footnotes.┬áSince The ‘Post first went on sale in 1877 (making it the oldest title in the U.S. capital region), it has won no less than 47 Pulitzer Prizes, and a staggering 17 of those were during the 27-year-long Bradlee era. That’s quite some record by anyone or any news desk’s standards.
Of course times will always change, and the modern Post is often accused of being a very different beast. From stories surrounding anti-Obama chain emails which, apparently, neglected to emphasise the false nature of the content in said messages, to critics claiming the title has switched from liberal to neo-conservative, there’s no denying that its position is now slightly (or perhaps wholly) altered from those times. Nevertheless, the reputation has remained in place since the so-called glory years.
All of which probably has you asking what the title of this particular post is all about (although, granted, the death part is pretty self-explanatory). If we skip across the Atlantic, to the small and unassuming UK town of Grantham, we find some unusually positive news from the printing presses. Today saw the announcement of a new local newspaper for the area, which is unusual considering we live in a period of closures, rather than openings.
The Grantham Target will launch in January and directly compete against the long-established Grantham Journal- owned by Johnston Press, one of the country’s largest regional and local media groups. It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any Watergate-sized revelations any time soon (although we’ve been wrong in the past), but still, more competition within the media, particularly at a local and regional level- the areas worst affected by ongoing revenue losses- should always be welcomed, not least thanks to job creation and an increase in potential exposure.
And no, despite the headline here, that’s not just looking at things from the perspective of an award-winning PR agency, but rather news consumers who believe┬áheterogeneity is a cornerstone of the media.