Wick Communications

On the other side of the pen

In Media, Newspapers, publishing on 7 Jun 2018 at 10:43 am

The Chronicle asked me to take a photo of our building.

Just as every doctor would learn from being a patient, every reporter ought to be interviewed once in a while. It’s instructive.

This week, I was interviewed twice. Reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED radio called to ask me about the transition of our newspaper, the Half Moon Bay Review, from an out-of-state corporation to local hands. It’s an exciting time and I primed the publicity pump with an email to the Chronicle.

So, I was pleased to hear from a Chronicle reporter. We talked for about 10 minutes and I thought she asked the right questions. The result was a 250-word take on the sale that was entirely sufficient for readers in San Francisco.

It was not, however, the story I would have written. It lacked the sweep of the tale. It didn’t cover all the points needed to truly understand how a group of readers came to purchase a newspaper, the angst as other potential buyers circled, the concern we all had for our jobs. There was originally a stray apostrophe in my quote!

In other words, it was fine. And I was getting a taste of what it’s like to have no control over my words once they were out of my mouth. I’m sure hundreds of people I’ve interviewed over the years would be pleased to know I suddenly shared their chagrin. (Editors subsequently cleaned up the story a tad and it ran in the paper two days after it appeared online.) …

I was also thrilled to hear from KQED. I don’t know much about radio. A producer called and asked if I would consent to a taped interview. I said yes, she said she would call me back and she did.

A few hours later, folks started telling me they heard my voice on the local public radio station. I missed it and couldn’t find it online. Subsequently, another KQED reporter called one of the new owners of the paper. Folks said they liked that report too, however, neither of us heard it.

After a couple of calls, a very kind KQED producer hunted down the script and an audio clip and shared those with us. It was great and I’m very pleased. But it was a bit disconcerting knowing my words were floating around in the ether and that I couldn’t specifically remember what I may have said.

As journalists, we’re used to crafting our stories. It’s a strange feeling being on the other side of the deal. A couple takeaways:

  • It’s a great idea to share your story with sources afterward. You may not be able to let them see it before it runs for reasons having to do with prior restraint and efficiency, but you should invite their feedback afterward. Sources are much more likely to talk to you the next time.
  • If you find yourself a source, don’t sweat the details so much. The important thing is the crux of the story. Ask yourself: Does the story get the point across? Sometimes that’s plenty.
  • Be your own best publicist. We are in a unique position to know how busy reporters are these days. If you have a story, tell it to the press as well as telling it on your own platforms.

Thanks to both KQED and the Chronicle for their coverage of the sale of the Half Moon Bay Review. Here’s a little more on a post I wrote.

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