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Poll results: Is the media a friend or foe?

Voters
13. You may not vote on this poll
  • Yes, the local reporters are on my Christmas card list.

    7 53.85%
  • No, I never answer the phone when it's them.

    2 15.38%
  • What's this media you speak of?

    3 23.08%
  • There is no local media here, the pony express comes once a week.

    1 7.69%
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Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Media: friend or foe

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    The Gig City
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    Media: friend or foe

    As many of you have seen my signature I take an informal count of how many times I've been in any of the 3 or 4 papers that cover my area. Last night I actually sat down with a reporter and really helped him write a questioning article on school funding knowing that tonight I will take the first step in answering that question at the Planning Commission with a large PUD coming in (1850 acres 5200 units).

    Question to all of you is, are you afraid or embrace the news media (newspaper mostly but maybe trade journals or TV even) and do you use them to your advantage.

    I have a very open door policy with the two newspaper journalists in town and told them that until I read something I shouldn't with my name in it I will continue to talk to them. I think they are a friend, for now, and are a very useful tool in getting the planning message out to many people who may not attend Planning Commission or Council Board Meetings.
    @GigCityPlanner

  2. #2
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    Aug 2002
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    Florida
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    Caution - they can be your friends but you need to remember they are in business to make money. While you can use them to get the government-line word out, that won't happen forever. Eventually someone, (an editor, major fund/advertising contributor, etc.) will take exception to a policy and things will change. Our local reporters can be objective at times and I mostly enjoy talking to them, but the bottom line is that they'll report what sells. After that happens, they'll still need to talk to you and get your input even if you don't like what they've said. I guess I'm saying that they shouldn't be your friends at all but should be looked at only through a lens as a professional like any other developer, consultant, etc. (Take it from someone who found out the hard way).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I agree, it is better to maintain good relations with the media. Like every profession you may run across some jerks who are into sensationalism and could care less about anything else. Usually either some one will burn them and or they will move on.
    By maintaining good relations and being honest with them, they will usually help you when you need a story about a project or an event. Or some times when you simply want to get your side of a story out. There are always times that you are going to come off looking bad but like everything else you take it and keep going.
    the word will also get around that you can be the go to person for stories and can be trusted not to lie
    Also those that know me know that many years ago a I married a reporter. Because of her stage name, most people never knew that we were married to each other.


    An amusing side bar, once we were having lunch together and when I got back to work I was called into the suprevisors office and was told that I seen having lunch with the reporter from----. And that this was not appropriate for a married man. My response was but we are married, the retort back was "but she is good looking". I thought what am I chopped liver?
    Most of her co-workers knew that she was married but for a many years did not know that it was to a government employee.
    Even today if we are at an event, and seated with people who have just met us, inevitably one of the other women will ask Mrs Katt (off to the side) if she is the trophy wife. Her response is "of course" We both laugh when this happens because she is the only wife and at the same time is my trophy wife.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    I treat the local reporters like I would any business contact. We are both in business but with different goals and at times those goals will not align. Expecting a favorable write up on every project is naive. Eventually a story will be written that you will was incorrect or unfairly written. Blocking the media out will only make the situation worse.
    A good friend and collegue tried this approach and found that every story about her or her projects were negative. This resulted in many projects not getting past the ZBA or the city council which eventually lead to her moving on.

    I have been lucky in that all the media interviews I have been through have turned out positive. I know that will not always be the case but I will never shut out the local media because I do not like how they reported it.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Fat Cat View post
    I agree, it is better to maintain good relations with the media.
    "Mr. Katt, there is a Steve Wilson on the phone; and a Rob Wolchek and a Scott Lewis in the lobby waiting to speak with you."
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Detroit Planner - I dealt with one of the three at another job and came out okay.
    I also dealt with the same personality type in another area and did not come out okay.
    I would still try and work with them.
    Had training in the grad program put on by a former media personality and a person who had her own crisis management firm--learned a lot from both of them as well as Mrs Katt
    And yes editors can be a pain and change stories but we all have some one above us who sometimes does this - so don't blame the worker bee

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michiganplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    "Mr. Katt, there is a Steve Wilson on the phone; and a Rob Wolchek and a Scott Lewis in the lobby waiting to speak with you."
    Woo! That's quite the combo DP. I miss the Detroit/suburban Detroit locals. Where I am now I have likened to the junior varsity team.

    I was on TV last night (in a non speaking role). When possible I leave interviews with our elected officials or appointed board members. But contacts at all the papers and local tv stations are a must.
    I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

  8. #8
    A few things I've observed about the print media in particular:

    You are always on the record, whether they state it or not. You are only off the record when you specifically say that you are speaking "off the record" and they acknowledge that.

    They are writers, not planners, and most have the observational skills of a lawn mower. Time invested in teaching them how local planning works and observational skills usually pays off. But not always.

    Journalism doesn't pay squat. This can tend to give writers something of an attitude when it comes to playing the "gotcha!" game.

    And the old observation that "It doesn't make sense to fight with someone that buys ink by the truckload" is pretty much true.

    I once had a writer report something that was only marginally correct. It involved the city acquiring residential properties to develop an inner-city park and some residents unhappy with initial offers for their property. Eventually, all owners sold and were completely satisfied (under the URA they damned well should have been happy). However, as a second phase of park construction was taking place, the paper published a picture and story about the "controversial project that had some homeowners upset with the city". I called his editor and complained about the tone of the article. I didn't get a clarification or correction, but the reporter knew I wouldn't put up with that sort of muckraking BS and it never happened again.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    These are all great points.

    When the local newspaper reporter (media of choice to get topics out) and I met for the first time I told him, "we're going to talk and I am going to say things that should be printed and you might pick up on somethings or piece things together that should not be printed, but if I ever see a story about something involving myself that you have not check with me first or read something I shouldn't our open duologue ends." and so far so good, they don't always pick the best quote but I ensure the story gets out as accurate as possible.
    @GigCityPlanner

  10. #10
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    In all my experiences with the press (including planning-related, political-related, and otherwise), it seems that the better journalists, the more straightforward journalists, the more honest journalists, the journalists who stay on topic, the journalists who won't put words in your mouth or print lies are found in the larger publications that have a wide geographic coverage, a lot of readership, and a lot of revenue.

    In my experience, the people who print lies, stab you in the back, defame your character, and put words in your mouth are found in the more local papers, the college papers, the online blogs, and the freelance publications. Why? Probably because these people seem to have a lot of time on their hands, aren't well paid, and have nothing to lose.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    In the June/July issue of the journal of the Town and Country Planning Association (not something many of you on the Eastern Shore of the Atlantic likely read) there was an interesting piece titled a cause for concern. The author did a study of the national press looking at portrayal of planners and planning and found (of course) that the public press portrays planners (alliteration or what) with hostility or at best apathy. Obviously the right wing press takes a very dim view (stalinist) and the left wing seems to go for necessary evil.

    This didn't address the issue of local reporting of planning issues. But, as I discovered in the above article, the Royal Institute of British Architects has a guide "Media Matters" for dealing with the local press...http://www.architecture.com/Files/RI...diaMatters.pdf. Most local authorities will have a press office (often overworked) but both big developments and committee meetings seem to be reported outside the control of anyone.

    I'd suspect everyone who has had issues reported in the local press has had poor (or slanted) reports of the facts. I'd suggest that to dwell on them is counterproductive - one can only remain professional and focused on the job they are trying to do. As with children, it's porbably best to ignore bad behaviour and respond pleasantly to the good.

  12. #12
    Member
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    Jul 2007
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    Washington, D.C.
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    I find that the media can be very helpful in that it can create awareness among citizens and encourage them to stand for what they believe and make a difference in the world. There are times at which the media's top concern lies in ratings and stories that are interesting, but I do feel that, overall, the media is looking out for us.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    It depends on the reporter. I've run across at least a couple that were helpful, attentive, and went out of their way to understand what you were saying so that you wouldn't be misquoted. On the other hand, there are those that are convinced that everything planning is corrupt and there is some dirt to dig up that will make them the next deep throat.
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  14. #14
    Member
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    Circling the wagons doesn't work

    I put in eighteen years in TV news, still do some media work on non-planning topics, starting my twelfth year in local government public information and media relations, currently public information officer for the planning department in a medium-sized city (top-30 tv market). I've done a lot of media training, and I always start with two points:

    Keep it simple.

    Don't lie. Ever.


    The rest is just details...
    Last edited by BassetF5; 06 Dec 2007 at 3:53 PM.

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