Monday, March 02, 2009

A De-Pressing Evening

The mood was light and happy at Cambridge House last Friday night. I went there to say farewell to a friend from the Grand Rapids Press who is among the latest to take a buy out and end several decades of employment at our region's largest daily. 

I was reminded somewhat of a recent trip to the funeral home for the loss of a family member. People were catching up with each other, and there was even lots of laughter. But nevertheless, death was what brought us together.

I felt the same mix of sadness and joviality. Seasoned journalists talking about going into business, writing a book, teaching, other ventures. They are confident they will survive personally, which is good. But I worry about the paper. There the mood is mixed. Some fear the quality of news will decline or disappear. Some feel it will still persist albeit in a different format or on a different platform. Some feel there is a positive opportunity for reinvention.

I want to believe the latter. And maybe that will prove true. Still, leaving that assembly, I felt the way I do when I leave a funeral--summoning resolve to move on even after losing a long-time love.

We in PR need to think about this as well. Perhaps the most cunning among us will see the decline of reporting to be an opportunity  to subsidize information to the media nearly wholesale. Tempting, maybe. But we have to think about not merely "getting the word out" there. We need to think about how it's received. The best thing conventional journalism offers to citizens is reporting and context, not merely information. The best thing journalists offer PR people is lending a healthy skepticism and thus a sense of credibility to information we share. If just 'anything' is out there, people will lose trust. And if that happens, our important and truthful PR info will be seen in that muddied context. As citizens and PR professionals, we should hope that the better aspects of journalism will never really die. 

1 comment:

Tim said...

Tim, I agree and also hope the profession of journalism does not die. I agree, the PR community and the media can work very well together to inform the community and, frankly, both pieces need to survive for this to continue to thrive.