Final Day of PIO Training – News Media Panel Discussion

What a great day today was as we finished up our final day of “Basic Public Information Officer Training”.  We started class today with a review of some of the in-class student news interviews that were taped yesterday afternoon.  Unless you’ve seen yourself on tape before (several times) it can be a bit unnerving.

Most of the remainder of the morning was spent participating on a News Media Panel Discussion via a conference call with three well respected, and well-recognized, members of the media.  Because I haven’t had the opportunity to ask their permission in using their names and companies, I am not naming them here other than what type of media they represented

  • Newspaper
  • Television
  • Radio

Our media panelists were asked to briefly respond to the following three questions:

  1. What are the goals of the news media relative to emergency management?
  2. How is technology affecting today’s news environment?
  3. What actions can Public Information Offices take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time?

(Newspaper) felt that reporting the news factually and timely was a key goal.  He felt that the media relies too much on “observing” the news and not verification of the facts.  To help with that, we need Public Information Officers to help in validating stories so that other observers can’t comment later online saying “here’s what REALLY happened”

Concerning technology, his newspaper that is printed seven days a week.  In order to produce the newspaper they are open to accepting information by fax, phone, or personal appearances.

According to him, the actions a Public Information Officer can take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time is simply to be open and honest.

(Television) commented that technology has changed news gathering drastically.  No longer do we need to wait until tomorrow to get information; it’s online now.  Today, reporters don’t have the luxury of time.  Information flows directly to websites.  As such, reporters may not have time to fully research an unfolding story like they used to  and so they may need to couch stories by saying in effect  … “this is what we are seeing now and further details will be provide as the story develops”.  Technology has affected the Immediacy of the news.  His station views their website as being an equally important tool in the delivery of news.  As far as what actions Public Information Offices can take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time … he summed it up in one word … Availability.  Even when you are called for an early morning report, make yourself available.  And finally, as PIOs and reporters we should continue to always strive for accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.

(Radio) said we need to recognize and approach the Public Information job as one that is always available 7×24.  It’s not a traditional 9-5 job.  At his station, they view terrestrial radio as now on the internet.  Internet is where it’s at.  Stories still focus on the “How, What, When, Where, Why”, but his station also looks for “How does the story impact citizens and how can it help them”?  Concerning what actions can Public Information Offices take to work with the media to ensure emergency public information gets to the right people at the right time? He felt it’s important for us to develop a level of trust with your reporters.   We must foster good relationships, and be available.  Lastly, we should know our constituents and why this story would be important to them.  With that knowledge, a PIO can help a reporter bring clarity to the story.

I was able to ask the panelists a question about social media, and how it can help them find, develop, report news stories?

(Television) felt this could be a dangerous area because anyone can post anything such as comments to a story.  As such, when people read these comments on-line and on their website, they take it as the truth even though it might only be a comment.

(Radio) said that at his station they are encouraged to link stories that are on the radio and their website to their Facebook page to ensure they are all linked.   He also mentioned he felt that we need to make sure we are protecting people’s privacy with information that’s posted online and in social media.  We need to make sure our websites are interesting and that they encourage people to come back 2-3 times a week to see what’s new

(Newspaper) said that at his paper, Facebook is used more on a “friendly basis” rather than as a news reporting vehicle.  Generally, his paper will post “breaking news” headlines on Facebook and then redirect the reader to their website for story details.  The paper also may use Facebook as a “fishing” tool to check community interest for potential stories.

Well, that’s it.  I really enjoyed this class.  I hope you enjoyed following along.

Come back next week as I’ll be back at FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) teaching.  I’m sure I’ll uncover several interesting stories with this new group of students.

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