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Access Based Journalism Is Dead – What Pr Professionals Should Know About The Evolving Media Landscape

During the PRCAI Annual PR Summit 2012, an eminent panel of journalists discussed issues facing the media in India, particularly, how the advent of social media and new technology is rapidly changing the concept of the traditional newsroom. For the PR and Corporate Communications professionals in attendance, this session was an important window into how the media landscape is changing – and why the way PR professionals interact with the media needs to change as well.

Following an address by Chief Guest, Smt. Sheila Dikshit, the panel on ‘A Room with a New View’ discussed the evolving newsroom and how the speed of change –the pace with which views are expressed, stories are reported, and news is consumed – is changing the media scenario. The panel included R. Sukumar, Managing Editor of LiveMint, Sourav Majumdar, Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur, and Anubha Bhonsle, from CNN IBN, and discussed how a combination of technology and changing expectations from consumers of media has evolved the concept of the traditional news room. Ex NDTV journalist and current Principal at the PRactice, Shivraj Parshad, served as the curator of the session.

The central theme of the discussions of the panel was how an “age of impatience” – fueled by social media and the evolving expectations of those who consume media – had drastically changed the way the media functions in the country. There are new rules in place and it is imperative that PR professionals understand the new media:

1) Staying relevant is key – The media’s focus now is to continually reinvent itself to stat relevant. According to R. Sukumar, most successful media houses now “break the news on social media” and use their website to be the first with analysis pieces. PR professionals looking to pitch journalists about website stories should know that the “readers like to read opinions online.

2) New Media is Fluid – R. Sukumar said one of the biggest advantages of online media is “that it can be refreshed easily” – meaning, the media is much more fluid now. Initial stories now appear minutes after the event in skeleton form and subsequent additions and edits are used to gradually add more details. In this context, PR professionals should know that what’s published online is not as permanent as the ink on newspapers – retractions are possible, new facts can be included, perspective might shift.

3) Everyone is a Journalist – Well, not everyone is, but they definitely can be. Social media has acted as a “democratizer” – allowing anyone with strong opinions and conviction to be become a citizen journalist. This issue is especially close to Anubha Bhonsle, and, after narrating an incident where a PR practitioner refused to engage with a citizen journalist, she urged the PR community to “leave hang-ups behind and realize the importance of citizen journalists.” Brands should be willing to engage a wide audience and should understand the power of a tweet.

4) It’s Still Journalism – As much as technology has driven widespread changes in the way newsrooms operate, the underlying message from the panelists was that many of the rules of old-school journalism are still in place. R Sukumar mentioned how Mint has a detailed “social media policy” in place and how their mantra is not to sensationalize news or chase eyeballs. Sourav Majumdar believes that “regardless of the news format, credibility is the upper most.” Perhaps the only major change from old-style journalism and PR was summed up by R Sukumar who said that “access based journalism is dead” – PR professionals today should understand that traditional contacts and networks might be easily outpaced by a simple tweet.