PR/Media Week in Review 03-22-2009

Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, PR/Media Week in ReviewIt was a shock to see the Seattle Post-Intelligencer fold this week after 146 years of printing a newspaper.  Worse than the demise of the newspaper is the web replacement seattlepi.com - atrocious, a mess, no chance of success, an insult to the journalists who toiled at the newspaper for generations and the Pacific Northwest readers who deserve much better.

 For several yeas I reviewed web sites for the the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, the group that produces the annual Webby awards (the Webby award ceremony this year is June 1-8, closing out Internet Week NYC). I critiqued sites based on Content, Structure and Navigation, Visual Design, Functionality, Interactivity and Overall Experience

Donning my site reviewers hat I would give seattlepi.com a failing grade. The lead story is Joel Connelly’s lame piece on Seattle restaurants (they deserve better than his perfunctory attention). The home page goes on forever – a mishmosh of soft features you can find on dozens of other sites. I can go on but it’s not worth it. What a shame. What was Hearst thinking?

“We look at this as a great experiment to launch a fully digital local-media company in Seattle, taking advantage of the great brand and the great talent that we have,” Steven Swartz, president of Hearst newspapers, said in an interview. Shira Ovide chronicles the collapse of the paper and the grand, misguided Hearst experiment in her story in the Wall Street Journal.

Can PR Save GM?  Automotive giant General Motors Corp. is nurturing a whole new image in cyberspace, defined by tweets, blogs and one-on-one conversations. See General Motors public relations exec Tom Wickham uses online tools to spread good news about automaker from MLive.com.

“We’re so deep into social media, we have our own team specializing in this,” Wickham said. He’s a newcomer to one of the hottest sites, twitter.com. Just this month, Wickham enrolled as TweetingTom. “I’m out there tweeting, sharing information,” he said. “That’s how PR is evolving, connecting with people one on one on one.”

 China military trains first public relations team. An initial class of 51 officers graduated this week in an effort to “raise the opinion-forming ability of the force’s foreign propaganda team and advance the innovation and development of the military propaganda work,” the official People’s Liberation Army Daily reported Friday.  Frightening! See Associated Press story.

Penn. Gov. Ed Rendell is paying an old political hand $100,000 to spearhead a publicity campaignfor programs financed with billions of federal economic-stimulus dollars. Rendell’s hiring of Ken Snyder as a subcontractor comes at a time the governor is calling for spending cuts and tax increases to avoid a state budget shortfall of more than $2 billion. See Rendell Hires Publicist to Tout Stimulus Money.

Bye Bye P.I.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Ceases Print Publication Tomorrow I first went to Seattle in 1971. Fresh out of high school, looking for adventure, escaping New York City, everything about the Pacific Northwest was new, including the local newspaper we all read – the Post-Intelligencer. You come to rely on a newspaper to inform, entertain, capture the personality of the region and to give you the tactile pleasure of ink on newsprint, an essential morning ritual. You read the P-I on the ferry to Bainbridge or the Halfway House in Brinnon. It was (and may still be, on the web only) an essentially Northwest newspaper.

Tomorrow is the last print run of the P-I. A victim of the brutal economy, especially for print media, the P-I will become the largest daily newspaper to shift to a web-only product. That’s sad and unfortunate but maybe there’s opportunity for seattlepi.com to lead the way for a leaner, nimbler, web-savvy established news organization – based on the pioneer spirit that lead to its  founding 146 years ago. Can these old white guys blaze new digital trails and shed generations of print-based baggage? It’s going to be an interesting experiment. I am rooting for them. I just changed my homepage to seattlepi.com - they need the traffic.

Why we need the P.I. … really need it … Recently, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer spearheaded a national expose on the Boy Scouts of America titled Chain Saw Scouting (See Profit trumps preservation for Boy Scout councils nationwide). Reporters from Hearst newspapers around the country worked on that story for a couple of years, they shared resources, connected the dots, followed the leads and a disturbing national pattern emerged. We need that kind of deep investigative reporting that requires professional time and resources. We need the P-I to keep watchdog over the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America. 

The P-I wrote the first stories on the Pulali Point landowners banding together (SavePulali.org) to force Chief Seattle Council to respect the property rights of its neighbors and the sanctity of the land bequeathed to them.  The P.I. deserves an award for the Chain Saw Scouting series. And they deserve our allegiance.

How the P.I. can survive and thrive:  Go totally innovative and ‘web-ize’ reporters so they can transmit to the web instantly from the scene. The Chain Saw Scouting series has interactive features, video, maps, slide shows – and hundreds of virulent, off the charts comments by rabid right wingers who are giddy with glee that the P.I. print has failed.  That’s the kind of fighting media property we need in the Northwest. 

The P.I. now needs to reinvent a major city newsroom. That can be thrilling … or impossible. Maybe the out-of-work P.I. reporters can start their own publication without the baggage of a print-based parent. Ah, the beauty and terror of the web.

PR/Media Week in Review 03-15-2009

Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, PR/Media Week in Review R.I.P.  P.I.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a 146 year old newspaper, is set to die this week and may turn into a web-only publication. The Seattle Times, the other newspaper that serves the city, may also fold soon, leaving a major U.S. city without a daily newspaper.

Newspapers are not simply paper, ink, words and images. They take on the personality of the city they cover, they become part of the cultural and political fabric, they span generations, house the archival memory, keep politicians and corporations honest… and they create jobs.

Most blogs echo what qualified news organizations report. With no ‘original’ reporting that adheres to an accepted, established code of responsible journalism we are left with hacks, charlatans and opportunists to promulgate ‘news.’  There is a road to survival for U.S. newspapers, argues David Carr of  The New York Times, although it will involve a radically different approach not likely to find traction among regulators or publishers.

A press statement issued by Chicago’s Daley administration announced the cancelling of $55 million in city public relations contracts, which represented the jettisoning of “non essential services.” Now we know. The contracts were terminated with extreme prejudice as an “absurd” waste of taxpayer money. See Sun-Times story. There are several ironies in that story. 1) The statement was issued by the press (PR) office. 2) By slashing PR contracts politicians and government workers are left to communicate without assistance, a dangerous proposition that threatens to undermine public discourse.

See YouTube video below on Wells Fargo and its use of blogs. Wells Fargo gets ‘it’ – they have bloggers and editors on staff. This is a good video on what it takes, step by step, to use a blog up front for PR benefit during a crisis. It is good to remember that a blog is simply an easy to launch, simple to maintain web publishing platform. You can fill it as you wish, regulate it, take the pulse of the public, adapt accordingly, respond when necessary.