Want coverage? Hire your own reporter

October 1st, 2009 by Mark Perry


Need media coverage – then hire your own reporter. That is what is happening in the US where newspapers are increasingly in the position where they can no longer to afford to send reporters to cover professional sports.

The New York Times this week highlighted the growing trend in baseball and hockey for teams to hire journalists who have previously covered their teams.

Newspapers have increasingly been using copy from news agencies, which tends to focus only on the winning team. It doesn’t necessarily tell the full story of the game and misses details that a newspaper’s dedicated reporter can bring to the story – particularly if his team has lost.  However, it is not just the match day coverage that has disappeared but the profile provided by non-match day stories and interviews.

To combat this, the hockey team the Los Angeles Kings have hired journalist Rich Hammond, who used to cover the team for the Los Angeles Daily News. He will travel to all the games and provide copy for the team’s local newspapers.

It immediately throws up issues of impartiality and potential conflict with the Kings’ PR team. Hammond has been quick to dispel concerns on his blog. He says that that his output will not need approval or interviews supervision and that his role is not PR.

He will be working as an independent reporter but can he? It is hard to believe that that the PR team will be totally comfortable with this as, in theory, he can write stories about the conflict within the club or how the manager may be about to lose his job. Compromise will happen somewhere along the line.

Could something like this happen with professional sport in the UK? Unlikely at national newspaper level but with the cuts being made in the regional media and the number of journalists that have been made redundant it is not beyond the realms of possibility. A media owner could jump at the idea to have a flow of stories about a football club without the cost of employing the journalist. But the nagging question would be how much input has the PR team really had?

About Mark Perry

Mark has more than 25 years’ experience in PR and corporate communications. He is a founding director of B2B consultancy Melville PR.

4 Responses to “Want coverage? Hire your own reporter”

  1. Sally Says:

    I read about this too, and actually thought it was a pretty good idea. I don’t know why more companies don’t do it. (My contact details are available on my website, obviously ;-))

    The reality is that papers don’t have the resources to send people to every event or cover every release your client issues. By hiring an on-staff journalist you can generate your own copy for your website or blog, and with the right SEO you’re going to attract traffic directly to the site.

    Yes, there are obviously going to be issues of impartiality but I think this guy gets a reasonable amount of freedom and, as I understand it, his copy isn’t checked or approved before posting. No, he’s probably not going to write “My employer sucks” features, but it will be really interesting to see how it pans out.

    I do a lot of writing for businesses – writing their blogs or case studies or other documents – and it’s funny because a lot of what I write is almost EXACTLY what I’d write for Computer Weekly or ZDNet or whoever – it’s just a different name on the cheques. Despite what I might have imagined five years ago, sometimes corporate writing really isn’t just advertising puffery.

  2. Mark Perry Says:

    When I came across this story, like you Sally, I could see the sense in taking this approach as local and regional outlets are shrinking.

    I am sure that the journalists who take these roles will maintain their ‘news values’ as they already have a reputation based on their work on the very newspapers in which they are reporting.

  3. seessKerceRib Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, keep on creating such interesting stuff!

  4. Mark Perry Says:

    Thanks for your comment.

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