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Working with Cagey AD's/PR

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by naturenick, Aug 13, 2014.

  1. naturenick

    naturenick New Member

    I just started a new reporter gig at a daily paper where most of my beat will be a small, rural D2 school. I've met both the AD and the Sports Communication director and they have been very helpful when I've wanted to do a story that highlights the school in a positive way.

    However, when I've wanted them to comment on something that's even remotely controversial, I haven't gotten my calls or emails returned. The sports editor and lead editor have had tough experiences in the past working with them on those sorts of matters as well.

    Any advice on how to work with them?
  2. OceanLottery

    OceanLottery Member

    If they're ignoring your calls and emails, make sure what you're reporting on is properly sourced and be sure to include: TK didn't respond to repeated requests to comment on the issue.

    Smart readers will see that they're dodging what goes for a controversy in D-II sports. Fans will be fans and not get it.

    My first beat was a D-III women's hoops team. I feel your pain.
  3. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    At some point, I'd sit down with one or both and talk it through. Don't do it over the phone. You may not get the resolution you want, but I think it's fair for them to know that you know they haven't been helpful and you've tried to resolve it.
  4. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    I dealt with this early in my career. Often you're dealing with a very young SID and an AD who doesn't have much experience with this kind of stuff.

    Be straightforward with them. Tell them, "These kinds of things are going to happen, and I can't tell a balanced story if you guys shut me out."
  5. Canuck Pappy

    Canuck Pappy Member

    I had a similar situation last week. It involved the SID and the AD. The SID didn't return my calls and the AD said he was too busy and would call right back.
    The story involved the shutting down of a sport at the local college. So I talked to every player/coach on the team and a lot of the players were quite upset and critical of the college.
    The SID and AD sent a press release the next day with flowery language and vague statements. I didn't do anything with it.
    The AD then called the next day asking to be interviewed. I asked him why they didn't call back a few days earlier. He admitted in a round-a-bout way that they just hoped the story wouldn't get traction if they didn't talk.

    The point is; as a PR person you can either be ahead of the story or behind the story. If you're ahead of the story, you call people back and spin the story your way. If you're behind the story, you are responding to criticism and you can no longer spin the story because the story is already out there. You let your detractors have the first say. So, if someone doesn't want to comment, there is always people that will.
  6. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    Did you do any kind of follow-up story after the AD called and asked to be interviewed?

    I get the AD dodging you and his wanting the story to go away in the first place. But he's rolling the dice. If you give him the chance to comment and he doesn't, then he's got to chug a big bottle of STFU if/when the story runs without him. That's big balls to call and ask to be interviewed after he blows you off.

    And the SID needs to get his shit in order, too. He can't be not returning calls when it's his job to deal with the media - even if it's a no comment that he gives you. I'm guessing there are plenty of "good news" type things that you run from that school that could easily be dropped. If the SID wants to start dodging phone calls, it can go both ways.
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    This. Meet for lunch, coffee, somewhat regularly if you can. Build a relationship. One thing about smaller/rural schools is that, chances are, the AD/SID have been there a while and have seen several reporters come and go. So they might be skeptical of the newcomer wanting to write less-than-flowery stories, which is natural.

    Of course they might be d-bags, but still try to build a relationship.
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