Paper Opens Its Doors to Readers

A Nashville TV station’s recent report about high fees a PR firm charged the city for its attempts to obtain favorable publicity for a planned new convention center evidently touched a nerve with Tennessean Editor Mark Silverman.

In a column titled “Tennessean coverage isn’t for sale,” Mr. Silverman noted that the TV report and subsequent comments on blogs “suggested that the firm coaxed favorable coverage about the civic center from The Tennessean; some bloggers and story chat participants even suggested that a Tennessean staffer was paid to write positive reports. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our stories and opinion columns cannot be bought.”

I’ll have more to say about paying reporters for favorable coverage in my next post, but for now I’m going to focus on another aspect of his column.

Mr. Silverman went on to explain how his paper works with PR firms and its commitment to ethics. He also described the lengths the paper went to in raising questions and digging for facts related to the convention center proposal. You can read his full column here: http://tennessean.com/article/20090809/COLUMNIST0113/908090331/1748

What especially caught my eye was the last paragraph, where he made an offer I wish more newspaper editors would make to their readers: Anyone interested in seeing how news decisions are made is welcome to attend a news meeting. All a person has to do is e-mail him to make arrangements.

I hope there are many who take him up on his offer, which he says he’s made before, because it would be an enlightening experience for those not familiar with this process. Reporters likely will be on their best behavior with outsiders observing them, but seeing how stories are chosen and what factors play into the news-selection process can only help strengthen relationships with the paper’s readers.

I applaud Mr. Silverman for his openness and his efforts to educate readers. Sounds like something a PR person might come up, doesn’t it?

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

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