Right now, there are 28,985 unread messages in my inbox.
I do (really!) make an effort to read messages. And yes, I encourage (and prefer) companies who want to pitch me a story to do so by email.
My goal here at The Denver Post is to get as much technology news into the online and offline newspaper (I also cover startups, aerospace, telecom and, well, nearly everything business related). I have a deep desire to be as comprehensive as possible, but that is nearly impossible with staffing situations and me wanting to have a semi-healthy home life. And of course, there’s a different business reality here at the paper. But I’m a believer that there is a way to do this. There’s got to be a better way!
Here are my observations on how we in the journalism industry can do a better job actually covering the community we live in. But I need your help.
- Don’t call me. But tell me everything. I’m not trying to be rude. But I screen my calls because I’ve had too many inefficient phone calls. Leave a message if you must, but email me first. I accept any and all pitches via email, even if it’s something you think I’m not interested in. I only reply if I’m interested. I figure PR people shouldn’t expect a reply because they typically send a generic press release and I’m just one of the numerous recipients. I don’t feel the love. Of course, if you truly believe you’re pitching a good story that I or any other legitimate reporter should be interested in, then email me again. Yes, I do sometimes not see legitimate messages. So email me — my inbox is a great source of future contacts, resources and ideas even if I don’t respond immediately.
- Reporter 101: You would think the first lesson in PR is to know who you are pitching to. So why do I get pitches from international firms hoping I’ll cover their tech conference in France, their Kickstarter campaign or their other non-Denver news? I don’t hide who I am or how to reach me. I expanded my online bio to tell readers, companies and PR folks about best practices. There is also a handy archive of my past stories so anyone who can read can see what I write about. The information on me and other writers is out there. Sometimes I wish there was an unsubscribe button on press releases that lets me tell your boss you’re being lazy. Don’t be that person who pitches randomly and rudely.
- Reporters are outnumbered. Is it just me or are there 1,000 PR professionals for every single reporter? I look to PR pros to help me get information faster — a quote, an answer, a detail, an interview with the CEO. Not all press releases are bad, especially the ones that tell us that something big is about to happen. But think about it this way, if I’m getting 1,000 press releases a day, I miss real news because I’m not spending enough time doing actual reporting.
- Don’t ask for an embargo. There are exceptions (don’t violate SEC rules and yes, I do want to know if your company is about to buy Amazon) but typically, tech reporters have been on to this ruse for years that pushy PR people are just trying to score free advertising. I cannot begin to count up how many pitches start with the “E” word and then, without any agreement from me, spill what I’m not supposed to write about until the next day. I also cannot tell you how many companies have threatened to go elsewhere and then … nothing. If you’re a company working with PR pros insistent that this is a way to get covered, I’ll send you to the advertising department. Work with me instead and share as much of your story as you can.
- Legitimate stories get my attention. As a business reporter covering the Denver area, I do write about the usual business news — M&A’s, venture raises, headquarter moves, major hirings and firings, IPOs, etc. Those are the things I don’t mind getting a heads up about. It’s the deeper stories that I really enjoy writing. If you’ve got one, let me know.
- Here’s what I want. I want to tell the stories of the people, companies and things in the Denver community. No journalist is proud of spending their life responding to and rewriting press releases. Instead, tell us what’s really happening with your business, tell me big industry secrets and trends, what your employees are up to and what’s coming down the road. Tell me the good, the bad, the quirky. Give me access to your CEO and the people who are doing amazing things. Let’s build that relationship so that when I do hear from you, I know it’s a legitimate pitch.
- Woe is us. Okay, one whiny complaint that I’m sure anyone who follows newspapers knows but may not realize. Our staff continues to shrink even as we still put out a print newspaper seven days a week and write online stories all day. I’m told we’re profitable, unlike some of our online competitors, but that is not enough to get the owners to invest and hire more valuable writers and editors in the newsroom to cover the community. If there are any billionaires out there who want a hard-working staff that has figured out how to make a big, local impact and supports innovation, call me.