Conversations in my head: An ongoing chat between the reporter and the PR guy

By Mark G. Auerbach

I’ve been juggling two careers, as a public relations consultant and as a reporter, for almost 35 years. I’ve been very cautious to insure that I don’t cross boundaries in either work role. I’ve shared my internal debates several times in Succeeding in Small Business columns. Here’s one from five years ago.

So, the reporter in me had plenty to say to the PR guy, after both of us spent over a year together working from home, doing ZOOM, and living on social media. In fact, I hardly let him get a word in edgewise.

The media is not the enemy

The media is there to report the news, unless they’re an opinion outlet, in which case it’s okay to opine about the news. If they’ve fact-checked their story, and you don’t like what they’ve said, it’s your problem. On the other hand, if you like the story, your story gets read, heard, or viewed by a lot of people.

If you really believe that the media is the enemy, don’t support it. Don’t buy advertising, don’t subscribe, don’t follow it, and don’t send materials or make a pitch in hope of getting a story.

Real news vs. fake news

Fact checkers and editors have been around a long time, and their role is to make sure that everything within a report is correct. Sometimes, there’s a typo, a grammatical error, a wrong element, all of which can be corrected.

But, when you feed a media source something untrue, you get yourself into a pickle. If you’re a source, you won’t be called back. In fact, you may be called out, and getting your credibility back is a long and difficult process. It’s hard to get back in step after the late night TV shows, Randy Rainbow and SNL caught you trying to spread untruths.

When is it news? When is it old news?

The press release (emailed, not tweeted or posted to someone’s Facebook Messenger) is the proper channel for submitting news to the media, unless a reporter tells you otherwise. Once you’ve posted the details on social media, it’s no longer “breaking news” to the recipients of your press release. I don’t cull my news stories from social media posts, because I can’t verify if they’re true. And, don’t assume I follow you on social media or have the time to read everything you post. And, should you choose to embargo a press release until, let’s say, 3 PM, don’t post it to Facebook at 2:45 PM.

Let’s cancel the culture of vitriol

Face it. It’s been a four-year period of insults, antagonism, accusations and viciousness. On both sides. When people show concern and kindness, the system works better.  We’ve all been through a rough year. Many of us have lost jobs, incomes, loved ones, self-esteem, a sense of purpose, and optimism. A little bit of kindness and compassion goes a long way. A colleague with whom I have a difficult relationship stopped a conversation one day to ask how I was doing. The colleague said things had been tough. We seemed to put differences aside in that chat, and our relationship has been much easier to contend with.

The reporter then took the PR guy out for coffee. At a cafe. As close as could be personally, but socially distanced from others. And then, they returned to work.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. He also produces the TV and radio series On The Mark and Athenaeum Spotlight with Guy McLain.

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