Wake-Up Call: Beat the press

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The Colorado chapter of the Public Relations Society of America held a meet-the-press style session yesterday, as PRSA members and students played a game of musical chairs, sitting down at literal round tables for fast, fifteen-minute sessions with actual representatives of the media. Or what passes for the media these days.

It was stunning to realize that just as the media is changing at lightning speed (as Michael Roberts chronicles in this blog), so is the profession that pitches to the media. If there are no reporters serving as middlemen between public relations professionals and the public, then how do PR people get the word out?

This question was underlined when I returned to the office and learned that the Denver Post had just eliminated six jobs, including that of Stephen Keating, who'd been on the panel with me.

At Westword, our dealings with PR people generally fall into two areas. The first involves all the pitches/releases they send for our calendar sections -- information we welcome, using it to constantly update our offerings, resulting in thousands of current listings on the web every day, and dozens of those expanded in print every week.

And the second? The calls we make to PR people to track down information for stories -- calls that are often distinctly unwelcome, another panelist confessed.

The true pros -- and there are plenty of them -- take the calls, knowing that the public deserves an answer, even if it's a simple "We can't talk about that now." And the others? We have a running list of those whose return calls we're still waiting for. And as mainstream media outlets keep cutting back on staff, these spokespersons should finally have time to pick up the phone.

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