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2016

The Pitch Gets Harder

You may think that your business or organization has a blockbuster story to tell, but try getting past the assignment editor of most Canadian media outlets these days.

In the ‘good old days’, most of us in the communications business set aside time and resources to pitch stories to media about breaking stories, big events and milestones. Today, you’ll be lucky to find an editor or producer at their desk and they will be hard pressed to find someone to assign the story to.

Newsrooms across the country have been gutted and countless papers have stopped publishing their print editions. Corporate mergers meant to ease the financial strain have, in fact, just added organizational chaos to the mix. Pay walls discourage open readership. Advertisers are less convinced that they are reaching their audiences. And there is nary a beat reporter to be found.

Many of Canada’s most respected journalists took a buy-out when it was offered, probably because they could see the writing on the wall. The world they operated in has changed irrevocably. Fewer Canadians start their day with a broadsheet and coffee anymore. More and more readers access their news from news-aggregation sites such as Google News that draws together sources – wire services, video, infographics and social media links – from around the world. And they get it instantaneously on smart phones and tablets at home and at the office.

Canadian businesses and organizations have hit the pause button and are considering what all this means for their own media relations goals and activities. They are shifting from a focus on traditional media to communicating via new social media channels, blogs, content marketing, crowd-funded news outlets and influencer marketing. These channels are harder to manage strategically, but they represent the places people ‘go to’ for information and access to opinion leaders.

It is worth taking a moment to consider what we lose in all of this. Who is going to pay for and sustain quality reporting in the future? The standard of journalism practiced in Canada remains high, for now. Print and broadcast reporters continue to do their best to deliver unbiased, factual and objective news stories. Yet, only a few media companies have the resources to back an investigative news team, and local community news coverage is dying on the vine and is rarely independently owned.

What really matters is not whether we reach for our tablet or our tabloid for our news. Who cares whether the news comes on the printed page or online? What matters is that we somehow retain and fund the infrastructure for thoughtful curating of the news, no matter the channel, and the guardianship role of the ‘fourth estate’ so we, as citizens, are well-informed and those who govern the nation’s business are kept in check.

The Canadian Association of Journalists reminds us that each reporting job cut “means one less truth that won’t be told in Canada.”

Susan E. Wright is a strategic communications specialist with the Hillbrooke Group. She has more than 25 years of experience developing and implementing communications and stakeholder strategies in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Susan can be reached at swright@hillbrooke.ca

"Canadian businesses and organizations have hit the pause button and are considering what all this means for their own media relations goals and activities. They are shifting from a focus on traditional media to communicating via new social media channels, blogs, content marketing, crowd-funded news outlets and influencer marketing."