MEDIA MATTERS: Advice from World-Class Journalists and Intriguing Media Minds
Michael Granberry, a native of Dallas, Tex., has been a newspaper reporter since his college days and has covered everything from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to Watergate to the King Tut exhibit in London to the Dallas Cowboys. His career includes stints at the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News, where he is now part of the paper’s GuideDaily and GuideSunday sections, covering arts, culture and entertainment.
Michael has been awarded a Katie by the Dallas Press Club for humor writing, and his piece was a parody of the television show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. In the same competition, he was also a finalist for best writing portfolio, for his stories on Officer Tippit’s widow; a profile of Fern Holland, an American aid worker slain in Iraq; the “makeover” piece; and his coverage of the 2004 Super Bowl in Houston.
I asked Michael for some nuggets of wisdom about how public relations practitioners can better relate to reporters.
Q. As a leading entertainment and arts writer, are PR people trying to pitch you all the time?
A. I bet I get 1,000 emails a day. Really. I’m not quite sure how all these people get my name, but most of the emails end up in the trash. I have to just constantly click and delete the vast majority. I can’t figure out why they think I’d be interested in covering something that doesn’t have anything to do with Dallas.
Q. The Morning News is a big, important newspaper. Maybe people think of you as a national paper.
A. That’s a mistake. Unless it has a strong local angle, I don’t bother with it. With all the changes occurring in the media, newspapers are focusing more on delivering local news and information. That’s our point of distinction. I might write about an actress in a new TV series out of Los Angeles, but only if the actress is from Dallas or attended school in Dallas or has some other connection. I’ve always been amazed that some PR people don’t do their homework and find the local angles to pitch.
Q. It’s tough to pitch reporters; what kind of PR person has credibility and is worth your listening to?
A. Reporters want someone who facilitates and helps us get information. If I contact someone and they stonewall or aren’t polite, I’m afraid I remember that. I understand there are situations where the PR person doesn’t want a story and doesn’t really want to talk to a reporter….but their job is to be calm, detached and profession. Not rude or hostile. I’m impressed with PR people who are open, direct and will hustle to help me get information and meet a deadline.
Q. You’ve been a reporter since your early days at SMU with the student newspaper in the early 70s. What’s the purpose of the media?
A. Our role seems to be changing, especially in print journalism. We used to feel we needed to be all things to all people no matter the race, creed, gender, age, etc. Now we are a more targeted to our core readers – loyal constituents who tend to be baby boomers. Our role is to serve this group; to enlighten, entertain and inform.