Think Again: Set New Coverage Expectations

Think journalists are going to leave their desks to come to the event you are planning?  You should probably think again.

Here’s a new example of how media cutbacks are affecting in-person news coverage.  A correspondent in the Washington Press Corps told me today about the late February meeting at the White House of the National Governors Association.  There, approximately 40 of the nation’s governors, who all just received a total of nearly one trillion dollars in Federal “stimulus” money, met with the President before making themselves available to reporters.  Newsmakers all – they gathered in one place, inside the White House, to answer questions in rarely accessible form.

My source tells me that in years past, this annual availability attracted hundreds of journalists. But this year?  “There were more governors there than reporters,” I’m told.  In fact, one correspondent tells me that that at times during the gathering, several governors talked to themselves, out of boredom, rather than to any journalists.

So there they were, 40 CEOs of our 50 states and the in-person news presence was well under capacity.  Why?  Fewer resources in news organizations.  Instead of a “beat” reporter on every subject, journalists now wear multiple hats and cover more.  Many just don’t have the time to travel anywhere to cover anything up close.  Many more rely on wire services, feeds or even PR “handouts” as foundations of daily coverage.

The bottom line is this:  unless something you are planning is extraordinary (and sometimes even if it is), it’s time for new expectations for a new era.