An attempt by this writer to make contact with fellow New York journalists last week turned out to be a most depressing experience.
From an organizational standpoint, New York journalists are in a state of collapse. The groups that are supposed to help them are run by the "haves" of journalism, i.e., the employed.
We went to a "Meetup" Sept. 10 of the New York members of the Investigative Reporters & Editors on the fourth floor terrace of Yotel New York at 42nd St. and Tenth Ave. Journalism being a highly challenged and even moribund occupation these days, we were hoping to commune with fellow journalists about what can be done about this.
Our advice would be to switch to PR/promotion for the millions of companies that need such help in order to remain in business.
Journalism is in distress because there is so much free information available now. The newspaper industry's role in providing info has been co-opted by the web which provides plenty of information immediately and free. Papers like the Washington Post and Boston Globe are being sold for a fraction of their former values.
Organizers Blew Me Off
We're used to being snubbed by leaders of PR groups but did not expect that from leaders of a journalistic group.
We wanted to discuss New York Times columnist David Carr's lament about journos busting on journos, the plight of Liberian editor Rodney Sieh being sued for $1.5 million and jailed, and tell them about our PR/media library which has lots of data of use to those seeking jobs and freelance assignments.
Journalists especially need to know about the specialized areas of PR that are growing such as tech, healthcare, financial, food/beverages, etc.
We were going to offer free access to the O'Dwyer library and website to IRE-NY members.
However, leaders of the meeting, including Sarah Cohen, (LinkedIn pix and bio) reporter and editor of the NYT, told us this was a social event only and no one was going to address the group about anything. The IRE-NY website displayed the names of 73 who had signed up to attend the meeting.
No "Serious Meeting" Planned
"So when will there be a serious meeting of this group?" we asked.
"Never," was the reply. Cohen said that actually there is no such thing as IRE-New York although that name is on the website. She said there is only national IRE, which is based at the University of Missouri J School.
The next meeting under the IRE name will be next June, said Cohen, former Duke J professor who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for her series on deaths in Washington, D.C.'s child welfare system while at the Washington Post.
She joined NYT in July 2012 where she works on the computer assisted reporting team. This involves "working with very large public records databases to tease out the information," she told the Aug. 28, 2012 Duke Chronicle.
One of her comments to reporter Julian Spector was that "It is extremely difficult to get an entry level job" in journalism. "The first thing they ask about is multimedia skills." The "easiest place" for jobseekers is business news because "they have a lot of money. If it helps people in their jobs, they'll pay a lot of money for it, for good, accurate and fast business news," she told Spector.
Contact Points Not Available
Having struck out on our bid to address the journos, we asked Cohen for the e-mails of the 73 who registered and if that was not possible, how about doing a blast e-mail to them offering access to the O'Dwyer Library and website?
Both requests were turned down.
While the names of the registered journalists are on the website, none of them supplies either an e-mail or phone number.
Cohen said we could compile our own list by looking up each of the names individually.
We tried that. LinkedIn wanted $39.95 monthly for a year or $49.95 for one month so we could send messages to their members which may or may not be answered.
Facebook said it would send a message to someone if we paid $1 on a credit card. We did that but got no response.
Twitter is no great way for reaching people, either. You can post things on Twitter pages but whether anyone will respond is another matter.
Cision Advises E-mail, Phone Calls, F2F
Cision, which has contact points for hundreds of thousands of editors worldwide, told PR people in a posting Aug. 29 that most journalists prefer the "ancient practice of e-mail" over social media. Cision's Teresa Dankowski apologized for sounding like a "dinosaur" in recommending that. No such apology is necessary.
Youthful PR people and journalists have handicapped themselves by substituting klunky communications means like SM for far superior means such as the phone, F2F and e-mail. It's as though a new generation of ballet dancers suddenly decided to dance in high heel shoes instead of ballet slippers. They'd be falling down constantly and even injuring themselves. How about trying to play tennis in ski boots? That is what is happening in PR and journalism.
A 51-page UNESCO report tells of worldwide persecution and repression of reporters. They should not be handicapping their own selves.
Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at Columbia University, told Cision that "A lot of reporters have Facebook fatigue" and "e-mail is still the most useful way to get work done." He prefers phone interviews as the best way to get "unrehearsed, honest answers."
Lawyers Show Contact Points
Journalists and PR people are frightened of communicating but other occupations are not.
The public "Leaders" section of the American Bar Assn. lists complete contact information for more than 6,300 lawyers.
Here are a couple of typical entries showing name, employer, phone, fax and e-mail.
Gibson, Jason S.
Holland & Knight LLP Ste 1200 515 E Las Olas Blvd Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-4249 (954) 468-7865
FAX:(954) 463-2030 email@example.com P. 226
Gibson, K. William
Ste 240 10365 SE Sunnyside Rd Clackamas, OR 97015-5752 (503) 454-0155 FAX:(503) 946-3080 firstname.lastname@example.org P. 6, 140
Lawyers are not afraid of putting out their contact info so why are reporters and PR people?!
One problem with two of the J groups in New York is that they are led by the employed rather than the unemployed.
IRE-NY co-organizer Cohen is at the NYT and the co-organizer who got top billing is Jennifer Forsyth, national editor of the Wall Street Journal.
Employed Head NY J Groups
Reporters from the J Establishment dominate the group including those also from Reuters, ProPublica, Columbia J School, CNN Money, and CUNY J School.
Heading the New York Financial Writers' Assn. is Jan Alexander, Institutional Investor, as president, Pierre Paulden of Bloomberg as VP, Terry Wooten of Crosstie Media Services as treasurer, and Stephen Foley of Financial Times as secretary-assistant treasurer.
By far the biggest category of NYFWA members is "freelancers" who total 81 of the 290 names (28%). This does not count members who are self-employed such as Robert Flaherty who heads Flaherty Financial News. Most of the freelancers were once at established financial media.
NYFWA is one of the few PR or journalist groups with a printed members' directory. E-mails and phone are given but not addresses.