Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why is That Reporter Rude?

So on Twitter yesterday, some PR professionals weighed in on relationships with journalists. One in particular had some valid concerns about the unprofessional way in which he'd been treated. 

If you're in PR, or, a "Flak" as we "journos" sometimes disparagingly call you, this blog entry is for you. And thanks to my new friend Eric Bryant at for bringing up these questions. 

Today, we tackle the first:

"You wouldn't think that journos were PR's best friends. I can count on 1 hand the # of journos who have been courteous to me." 

So .... why the lack of courtesy? 

A few things are going on behind the scenes, if you're calling a journalist who is working at a daily newspaper, television station, radio station or AP wire service:

1) They're on deadline. I don't know if you've ever tried to write a 10-inch story in 15 minutes or less, but when something breaks and you have that amount of time to finish your phone calls and then crank out accurate, creative, tight copy, you're just not in the frame of mind for a pleasant phone conversation. As a PR professional, your best bet for an adequate chat is to find out when the newsroom is in full deadline mode. Then don't call during that window of time, unless you have a breaking story or quote to offer on one. If you do call, expect a curt and abrupt reception.

2) They're dealing with a psychotic editor.  Let me put this as plainly as I can: the editor sets the tone for the stress level in the newsroom. I've worked with lovely editors who were stand-up individuals and who understood that encouraging reporters was the most effective way to generate the best articles. 

But forgive me if I sound bitter when I say that the industry we know as daily journalism is highly dysfunctional. A lot (a lot!) of emotional abuse takes place behind the closed doors of a newsroom. I've had editors who riddled me with so many obscenities it was as if their mouths were machine guns. One used to throw a pencil at my head when he didn't like my leads. I had another who sexually harassed me. Another slept with my male colleagues and sang their praises to the AP national desk in New York while she pummeled the copy of the female reporters. Another one usually reeked of alcohol from the night before.


You get the idea.

Now this reporter, who is dealing with a living character out of a Stephen King novel, gets a chirpy phone call from YOU. Forgive me for saying this, but if you get two words out of that person, then consider that person to be polite, because it's amazing they can put two words together at all.

Want to know why a reporter doesn't show up for your news event? Tune in tomorrow.


  1. Touche! Very good. We did discuss these issues at length yesterday, Heidi, and I appreciate your sharing these tips of wisdom. Sometimes we PRs forget to look at things from the vantage point of the harried reporter or frenetic newsroom.

    Eric Bryant, Director
    Gnosis Arts Media Group

  2. I'm posting this comment in 2016 and times have changed. Now, reporters are on Twitter and their language is coarse and they love to show attitude. Many are rude. If you are offended by anything they say or do and insist on discussing it, they will block you. These reporters all seem to hate Trump but I find they act a lot like Trump would if he were a reporter. All too strange and not good for the journalism profession.