Sunday, March 18, 2007

A slow news day? Perhaps

“It must have been a slow news day.”

That is a common crack from critics unhappy that we reported something they would rather you not read.

While virtually all of those stories wind up being reported in some form or fashion, it is true that “slow news days” exist. A news story that leads the front page one day might, when “competing” with other events and issues of the day, fall to the bottom of 1A or move “inside.”

Every day is unique – there are no guarantees -- but news does have a certain flow to it.

That is as true in Dubuque as it is in Des Moines as it is in D.C. Those patterns have not escaped public-relations professionals.

Last week, the public radio program Marketplace aired a report on managing the news – or attempting to manage it.

In her Marketplace report, Ramy Inocencio interviewed some experts and offered these conclusions:

  • When releasing good news, Mondays are often better than Fridays.
  • In the same vein, if it’s bad news, and you hope it attracts less attention, think about releasing it on a Friday. TV viewership is not great on weekend nights, and Saturday newspaper readership is lower than Sundays.

Katie Conover, media vice president of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, said, “As you get into Friday though as you know news is often, becomes sort of buried as people head into the weekends they are paying less attention and the chances of your story really being picked up and noticed are slim.”

Maggie Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of APCO Public Relations, told Marketplace, “If you're releasing good news, some folks in the public relations industry claim that Sunday is the new Monday, that you work the story on a Sunday to try to get in the Monday morning news.”

However, as Fitzpatrick noted, it is not simply a matter of Good News Monday and Bad News Friday. The Sunday morning talk shows, Internet sites and 24-hour news channels complicate matters.

The Marketplace report noted that Sen. Hillary Clinton made her presidential bid official on a Saturday in January. “Her goal was clearly to insert her story into the Sunday talk shows, so releasing on a Saturday made sense,” Conover said. “By releasing then, it becomes fresh news and fresh fodder for those discussions.”

OK, that’s the situation with national newsmakers. What about the tri-state area?

Dubuque is not a media-saturated market. There is no TV newscast originating from Dubuque. The Cumulus radio stations in Dubuque have abandoned local news. (Radio Dubuque maintains a slimmed-down local news staff.)

Thus – and I don’t think it’s bragging -- when it comes to Dubuque news, the TH maintains a strong position as the leader in news. (That does not mean we have no competitors. Hardly. The TH is surrounded by quality daily newspapers that come into various tri-state communities.)

After more than three decades working for daily newspapers, I have observed that there is a flow to news events. It tends to build through the weekdays, then slows on weekends, when there are more scheduled events, such as festivals, than major announcements.

Does that mean that a “good news” announcement is a lock for the TH’s front page? Does that mean that “bad news” announced on Friday and reported on Saturday will have less impact? As stockbrokers often stipulate, “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” However, as the professionals in the Marketplace report observed, newsmakers hoping to manage their visibility might consider all that.


Lyn Jerde said...

Truth be told, the TH nearly maintained a news monopoly even when there was a TV newscast originating from the city. One of the TH reporters (it wasn't me!) suggested that, since the ending credits of the newscast included credit for the personalities' clothes and hairstyles, maybe they should also give credit to the source of the news -- the TH. That wasn't a nice thing to say, but from experience, I can attest that it was often true.

Not so with Gordy Kilgore...he did his own newsgathering, and regretfully Dubuque is unlikely to see his like again.

Rob Callahan said...

I hadn't noticed that Cumulus stations had abandoned local news...that is pretty wild.