It was just a little over a decade ago when newspapers wrote what they wanted and TV stations didn’t fear advertisers. The news organizations were cash cows for their influence with consumers, and the community had little alternatives for news sources.
But those days are gone. The New York Daily News – one of NYC’s largest newspaper – is up sale this week even though it is losing a reported $20 million dollars a year. Even its long-time publisher, Mort Zuckerman, is giving up on the news industry.
While this is extremely bad for journalism and democracy (and it concerns me), this weakened news-state can work to your advantage as a business owner. But first, you must understand how the editorial and legal process works inside of the newsrooms.
A story with any legal ramifications doesn’t just appear on television or in the newspapers. Depending on the complexity and litigious risk of the topic, it must go through a rigorous script-approval process that reaches editors and lawyers for the corporation. The more hands that are involved with a script-approval process, the better odds you have of influencing the story’s coverage.
And don’t assume the media doesn’t care about your business or background, especially if you are the center star for an investigative report. Large media organizations, like NBC, CBS, the New York Post, do fear litigation if you have the ability to sue or ignite any underground campaign against the news agency.
Adding more scandal to editorial decision-making, the rumor inside most newsrooms is that the legal team gets a bonus if their news organization is not sued during the year. If that allegation is true, you can bet many people inside of the news organization have an invested interest in making sure you are not slandered.
So the next time you are on the negative end of a story, just remember, you do have an opportunity to give your side of the story. While the power of the ink is still with the media, businesses or people with money will grow in clout if they threaten to fight back from any negative news story.
Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com