Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How not to behave with the media

It’s a sadly pathetic sign of the times that people won’t buy a newspaper that has just publicized their group or event; they expect us to give them the paper for free.

A Sonoma County children’s-health commission — not even a local group — recently called the newsroom wanting a free copy of an issue that covered a new clinic opening in Windsor that would serve Lake County clients. The person on the phone got rather huffy when I offered to transfer her to circulation so that she could arrange to purchase the newspaper.

I don’t recall hearing any word of thanks that we publicized the clinic opening — possibly because this group hadn’t even been involved in providing us with publicity. Its local counterpart was. But somehow this Santa Rosa agency felt entitled to get a paper for free.

This is not an isolated incident, just an especially resonant one. Most of the time the demands for free papers come from people who submitted the announcements.

Equally vexing are the people who try to influence newsroom staffers to fast-track their event’s publicity.

This past weekend I had somebody actually call me at home wanting to know when I was going to run an article in the Lake County Record-Bee. This is someone with whom I want to maintain a good working relationship so I responded courteously even though it took me some effort. But I expect that in the future, people do not contact me at home regarding matters that involve the newspaper. I have work e-mail for that.

The person I spoke to at least understood that there are equally vital announcements competing for available space and that they have to wait in turn. This is not the case with everyone submitting an announcement.

On at least two occasions, people have verbally abused me because they considered their announcements to be more important than those submitted by other people. In these cases I have to tell you — I do not take kindly to bullying.

I think the cause of this widespread rudeness is that people tend to forget that we are providing a free service by putting information into print. The increasingly rare individuals and groups who understand and acknowledge this, are truly class acts.

I pride myself at the newspaper in providing local news and publicity — and I think I can safely speak as well for everyone else in the newsroom — but if you want an absolute guarantee over your announcement’s date and frequency, you need to consider purchasing an ad.

Publicizing local events is a service we strive to provide and in the majority of cases will achieve. So when your announcement is placed in print, please consider purchasing the newspaper. When you demand a free copy, you are telling us that our newspaper is a thing that has no value. I respectfully disagree.

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