What not to expect from a journalist

If you’re engaging with the media, it pays to take the time to appreciate the world from their perspective, and the pressures at play there. In this instalment of Working Words, we offer two minutes on what not to expect from a journalist…

Journalism is a demanding occupation. From hitting tight deadlines to competing fiercely with other outlets, delivering accurate and fair copy to investigating, criticising and analysing vast amounts of information, there is much expected of journalists.

At the same time, of course, there are many things that journalists are not there to do.

The legwork. The pressures of filing multiple articles a day, as well as sniffing out potential stories, means that journalists will not have the time to turn incomplete pitches from contributors into complete stories. Their job is to connect the dots: to finesse and write up well-thought-out feature ideas, or well-supported news pieces. If they receive an idea or piece of commentary they will expect it to be as coherent and complete as possible.

The spell checking. Most newspapers have subeditors, but this is does not make it OK to send through poorly proofed press releases or articles. A journalist will not take kindly to having to correct grammar or repeated typos. What’s more, frequent mistakes, particularly in ‘expert commentary’, will really diminish any claim you have to be a great source of information or insight.

Promotion. Unless commissioning sponsored or advertorial articles, journalists are not there to simply ‘plug’ your product or company, or to reproduce the exact wording of your press release or mission statement. Journalists are there to add depth and to report what they believe to be in the public interest.

Bend their deadlines. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, many journalists are not able to bend their deadlines, either because they are working to strict print deadlines or because they adhere to equally strict online schedules to ensure complementary articles appear at the same time. With copy to file, and limited time available to do it in, journalists cannot usually work around your schedule. Try to be flexible.

Updated January 2022

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