The day Seinfeld entered SBJ’s newsroom

Eric Olson, SBJ EditorThis is a historic moment in my editor’s desk.
Jerry Seinfeld just walked into Springfield Business Journal’s newsroom and said:

“It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”

OK, so that didn’t happen in our little southwest Missouri newsroom. But Seinfeld’s quote did make its way in via a news release that I think is the most cherished I’ve received in all my days here. It’s not a breaking news tip, another layoff announcement or a record quarterly earnings report.

On the surface, it’s a general release from an out-of-state public relations firm – usually, sent straight to the Junk folder. The title, “How to Get Positive Ink in Newspapers and Magazines,” nearly forced me to hit delete as I expected to read something about spin and persuasion tactics.

But Seinfeld rescued this one from the bottom of the e-trash heap. After chuckling and sharing the comedian’s quote with the news team, I read on:

“In the PR business, one thing to always remember is that the task of executing good campaigns for our clients isn’t nearly as challenging as the task of a newspaper or magazine editor.”

My jaw dropped.

“While PR professionals follow the news trends, editors have the responsibility of setting them. They decide:

  • the priority for each story,
  • the amount of space to devote to it,
  • how to illustrate it, and finally …
  • how to ensure it reflects the truth!”

This was getting better by the character.

“The number one pitfall of those seeking news coverage doesn’t concern the quality of the press release, the timing of the story or the skill of the spokesperson being interviewed. It concerns recognizing the needs of the editors, who are the gatekeepers between you and your story and the millions of readers they reach.”

Ah, what a breath of fresh air. This PR firm understands the newsroom grind.
So often I get the feeling that coverage is automatic once a company sends a news release. The correspondence is usually followed with, “Please tell me when this will run.” Then there are the multiple phone calls to “follow-up” or “make sure you received my e-mail” because “I haven’t heard back from you.”

It’s nauseating. It is not my job to respond to each and every e-mail and news release sent into the newsroom. It is my job to review each item, judge which bits of information are important to our readers, and decide the method and placement to communicate it (cover story, Newsmakers, Q&A interview, photo opportunity for On The Street, breaking news, in-depth In Focus article, etc.). I have a team of professionals to help, too.

If it’s newsworthy, SBJ will either publish it with the information provided or knock on the source’s door for more information and perhaps to take a photo. You’ve just got to trust us that we know what we’re doing and we’re acting on behalf of our readers.

Like any good story, you can see this release touched a nerve. But there’s more important info to share with you, whether you work for a PR firm or handle your company’s PR in-house. This is something all companies and their representatives that work with SBJ – whether editorial, advertising, circulation or as a friend of the publisher – need to hear.

So, here is the full release, with details on these four tips:

  • If You Want to Get in the Paper, Then Read the Paper
  • Analyze if You are Actually Newsworthy
  • Select the Right Tool to Get Coverage
  • Ask Yourself If You Would Read the Story You Want to Pitch

Spread this good word, my friends, and the news will find you.

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