Forbes Post – 5 Rules: How to Survive (and Thrive) in the Chaos of Current Media

The following article originally appeared in my regular column at

Today’s journalism industry is in “seismic turmoil,” says Forbes editor Tom Post. Forbes’ Lewis Dvorkin is commiserating what we’ve been noting as well. Very few of the star journalists (the ones who made the lives of PR people havoc during the last two decades) have made the transition to digital media.

So what are we left with? Fewer true journalists, with far too many demands on their hands. In some cases, the results are laughable. Last week I noticed three of our agency staff amusing themselves with the headline attempts of one of our local news organizations. The station was reporting a tragic story (an SUV whose driver had cleared the ice from only a small patch of their windshield hit a man on a bike next to a train track, pushing him into the path of the train, where he died).

The story was a horrific occurrence, but the site’s attempts at a headline were downright comical:

Attempt #1:
Man hit by vehicle then Frontrunner dies (Who died? The train, apparently.)
Attempt #2:
Man hit by vehicle, Frontrunner dies (Say what? Someone in the copy room has spotted the problem and attempted a fix. But according to the new headline, it’s still the train that has met its demise.)
Attempt #3:
Provo man dies after being hit by vehicle, then Frontrunner (Finally. Still a poor headline, but hours later, readers can at least deduce what has actually occurred.)

What does this mean? As a society and as consumers we still need news, we need analysis, and we need company and product reviews. We have many more sources (far too many sources) of information. But we have progressively fewer sources we can actually trust, when even the few remaining journalists at our news organizations, purposely or not, are prone to lead us astray.

We must find and become our own reporters. I smiled at a recent press conference we hosted to see two of my agency partners interviewing, filming and delivering the edited video package to the local stations who, despite their great intentions, had too little resource to peel away to get to the actual event (when the morning’s one available camera guy gets the flu, they are basically stuck.)

I was also stunned to hear Sam Whitmore, former editor in chief of eWeek (now head of Sam Whitmore Media Survey) report that consumers are so desperate for comparative information about technology products they are willing and grateful to accept that information from the vendors themselves (so long as the source of the testing and the information is disclosed). For example my great friend Tom Henderson, in Indianapolis, runs a technology testing facility that will do reviews for hire. He is meticulous for thorough testing and an agreement that he will call the results exactly as he sees them, for better or worse. There is no way for a client to “buy” a favorable review. Clients can, however, choose not to release or publish his findings. If they do choose to issue, Tom’s ExtremeLabs is listed as the source, and it is clearly noted that the vendor hired him to conduct the review.

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Author: Cheryl Snapp Conner | Google+