03 November 2009
As published in Bulldog Reporters Daily 'Dog - November 3, 2009

As expected, a growth in the use of online and social media resources by journalists has been identified by the Bulldog Reporter/TEKgroup International 2009 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices. Social media is a communications evolution that has created many new opportunities in the industry—yet some are not always considered favorable.

For the third consecutive year, the ability to access corporate news and information 24 hours a day again ranks as the greatest change in the way journalism is practiced due to online technology. Although most journalists who participated in the survey are grateful for the advantages of "connecting with sources 24/7" and the "ease of finding [the] right person to talk to," a common theme of fatigue and frustration arose from the comments they submitted.

While one journalist points out that "online media is what I do, so it's the reason I have a job!" another laments that "I could work 24 hours a day and burn out" while another could "work myself to death around the clock." There's a "constant need to feed the beast in a 24/7 newsroom" and "I must write more and write faster to feed our news website."

Despite the fact that some journalists will "blog, use Twitter a dozen times a day [and] use Facebook regularly," they "can never escape the media/PR deluge." Usually, additional components such as photographs, audio and video files are sought during the research process. One journalist opines that "often, I have to watch a podcast or video in addition to reading all available interviews. I hate it; but it's life."

It makes sense that the domino effect comes into play here. If the one producing the content is affected negatively, then surely the content itself is prone to suffer. The "quality of content has decreased in some ways because digital media demands more work (without more staff) and has increased in other ways because 'competing' with bloggers means we have to work harder to set ourselves apart."

Journalists are faced with "the task of keeping up with the constant demand for information and innovative ways to present it," and "getting it right is no longer as important as getting it first." Also, there is now a need to "spend time thinking about SEO keywords instead of reporting, writing and editing."

Granted, journalists can research "when I want" and "follow [my] own channels of investigation," but "credibility of news sources (websites, blogs, etc.) has become suspect and the standards of news gathering have changed." Whereas journalists can "fact-check faster (to a certain percent)," "fact-checking is both simplified and more complex because of the number of 'news' sources and because I can't always trust everything I find."

Since "expected output volume [has] tripled" and "deadlines are tighter to meet fluid online demand," some journalists "now have twice as insane a job, with two to three times as many stories to edit." "Consequently, I get a lot more peeved when I get useless emails from PR people pitching stories about kids' toys or something when I am the Middle East editor."

One journalist concedes the information overload, truckling that "I've been lost in the shuffle." The takeaway for PR: Be mindful of the strain journalists are under—and respect it when pitching your ideas.

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