Boston globe image

Boston Globe Tour – Journey of a Story

Boston globe image

 

A few weeks ago on a Friday morning, The Boston Globe was nice enough to host a group of PR pros from the PubClub of New England. We had a wonderful time meeting all of the staffers, touring the facility, and hearing about all of the assets the paper has now. One of my favorite parts was hearing about how they are now housing start-ups in the building to help them launch new products.

 

As PR pros, our job usually ends as soon as the story is submitted by a journalist to be printed – but that is just the beginning of the life of a article at the Globe. Once a writer’s deadline hits, the story physically travels all over the building (and sometimes across New England) before it lands in the hands of readers.

 

First, it’s written in the newsroom – this part we’re familiar with. However, I thought the Globe newsroom was rather overwhelming! I had no idea how huge it was. This part of the journey usually happens at night, we’ll say around 7pm:

Boston globe photo 5 - newsroom

Around 10pm: The stories are etched on to special plates that are used to print the paper (the room has special yellow lighting so they aren’t damaged):

Boston globe photo 9 - plates

The plates, which can only ever be used once (they are recycled, don’t worry!) are created on these machines….

Boston globe photo 7 - plate makers

And they are then clipped to and taken up this ski lift-type track to the press room (right over the heads of these PR pros!):

Boston globe photo 2 - plates go up the track

Meanwhile, in the press room, rolls and rolls of paper are ready for printing. The Globe actually has a train track in their press room (not pictured) and these rolls of paper are delivered directly to the Globe via train.

Boston globe photo 1 - Rolls of paper s

Since the rolls are so heavy (1,700 lbs each!) they are moved around by these unmanned robots:

Boston globe photo 6 - robots

Boston globe photo 8 - robot sign

You can see the their tire tracks along the press room floor:

Boston globe photo 10 - presses 2

Around 2:00 am: The first edition begins printing!

Boston globe photo 4 - presses 1

The Globe has four working presses, but they only ever use three at a time in case one goes down. The presses are intelligent enough that they can typically fix themselves if something breaks, but they also always have repairmen on hand as backup.

Boston globe photo 10 - presses 3

There are actually three editions of the Globe printed every day. The first edition has three stars on the edge of the page and is sent to the farthest-reaching distribution locations (Maine, Cape Cod, etc.). The second edition has two stars on the edge of the page and is sent to the metro Boston area. The last edition has one star and is sent to Boston proper. This allows edits and/or updates to be made right up until the last minute.

Boston globe photo 11 stars

And voila! The paper lands in the hands of the readers. This tour certainly was an eye-opening experience and I’ll certainly think differently about working with newspapers from now on.

Were you on the tour? What as your favorite part? If you weren’t, have you ever seen a newspaper being printed? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side”

I read an interesting blog post yesterday entitled “What all PR people should know about journalists”, written by Rohit Bhargava on his Influential Marketing Blog. The post had been “re-tweeted” by someone I follow on Twitter. As a former journalist who came over to the PR “Dark Side” 12 years ago, I was naturally intrigued. Mr. Bhargava listed six lessons that he has learned that “most journalists know and many PR professionals are blissfully unaware of.”

The six lessons are as follows: 1) Your BS is obvious 2) Timing trumps all 3) Reputation matters 4) Features are not as important as an angle 5) Speed and contactability make the difference 6) Peer pitching works. The writer expounds on this list here: http://tinyurl.com/7s3vxj, but if you’re a successful publicist, Mr. Bhargava’s insights will fall into the “duh” category. If you are a PR professional and this list is eye-opening, then you are either right out of school (you get a pass) or you really suck at your job and it’s people like you that give us flaks a bad name… But I digress.

My reason for writing this post is not to knock Mr. Bhargava’s blog post – he writes a very successful and generally insightful blog – rather, I’m tired of always hearing about what reporters think about us “annoying” publicists and how WE can do a better job. It’s about time we PR professionals enlighten you journalists about what we think about you and how YOU can do a better job. As someone who has worked on both sides of the phone, I have some lessons that I have learned along the way that, to turn Mr. Bhargava’s statement around, “most PR professionals know and many journalists are blissfully unaware of.”

Here’s my Top Ten List of What Reporters Should Know About “The Dark Side” (in no particular order):

1. The “Dark Side” is not that dark. I know it’s hard for many reporters to believe, but for the most part, PR folks are not evil like Darth Vader. OK, so Lizzie Grubman didn’t do us publicists any favors when she ran down a crowd of people in the Hamptons with her Mercedes several years ago shouting “F**k you, white trash”. That was really more of a “class warfare” issue anyway. Regardless, I can name plenty of reporters that have given the Fourth Estate a bad name. Does Jayson Blair ring a bell? So, please cut us some slack. We don’t look down on you, so please don’t look down on us. We’re just doing our job.

2. We don’t think you’re stupid. Contrary to what you may think, we’re not out to dupe you. There are some reporters out there that I’ve encountered over the years that truly believe that every pitch they receive is a ruse. We understand that if we don’t have an existing relationship that you’ll need to be more thorough in vetting the pitch, but trying to pull one over on you is not in our best interest or the best interest of our clients. Our reputation in this business is all we have. If a publicist loses their credibility, then they’re all done. Most good publicists understand what’s newsworthy and won’t waste your time overselling a great story about our client’s “new coffee flavor” for instance! We’ll save that story for when you owe us one.

3. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need us as much as we need you. If this wasn’t the case, there would be no need for query services like PR Newswire’s ProfNet or Peter Shankman’s HARO. You need sources and story ideas and we have them. What’s more, a good PR agency contact can be a direct conduit for multiple sources – one stop shopping!

4. Some day we may represent Bono or Bill Gates. OK, so we don’t always have the sexiest clients, but just as you may start out covering selectmen’s meetings for the Carlisle Mosquito and end up a columnist at The New York Times, we could some day represent a client you would desperately want to write about. Keep that in mind when you’re pooh-poohing our pitch about the new coffee shop that opened on Main Street.

5. We are just as busy as you are. You’re busy, we get it. So are we. Please don’t always act like you’re in the middle of breaking Watergate when we call. Just as you have editors riding you, we have clients that expect the cover of Time magazine. When we call, it’s usually just a quick follow up on something that we sent you. You can spare 60 seconds. Now, if we call you with a stupid question at 5:00 p.m. when we know that you are on deadline, please, feel free to blast us.

6. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. If our client is on the hot seat, we will unequivocally do everything we can, short of lying, to protect our client’s name and reputation. This is what they pay us for. At this point, all friendships between reporter and publicist must be suspended. We understand this and so should you. Getting the dirt and deciphering our “spin” is your problem. There is nothing unethical about putting a spin on the truth. Understand that we all carry the labels “Flak” & “Spinmeister” proudly. When the dust settles, we can be friends again.

7. You can’t always expect an exclusive. Just because we also gave the story to your cross-town rival, doesn’t mean we screwed you. While there are some stories that may deserve an exclusive for various reasons, most of the time it’s not a big deal if the other paper runs the same story on the same day. If you write for The Boston Globe, your readership isn’t reading the Boston Herald anyway. It’s safe to assume that if we don’t say ahead of time that we’re giving you an exclusive, then we’re not.

8. Please don’t call our clients directly. There’s a very good reason why our clients hire us, please don’t cut us out. We make our livelihood by publicizing CEOs and their companies. If they had the time and expertise to do this effectively, then they wouldn’t need us. When you go directly to our clients, it either really annoys them and we hear about it or they begin to wonder what they need us for – even though we’re the ones who initiated the relationship. Please call us if you want to talk to them.

9. Just because you didn’t think about it doesn’t make it a bad idea. PR professionals are a pretty creative bunch. One of the best methods of garnering press for our clients is to lump them into a larger trend piece. When we bring you an idea for a trend piece, please don’t turn your nose up at it. You can take credit for the idea. If you do decide to use it, just please include our client prominently in the story.

10. Don’t make us do your job. Please don’t send us interview questions for our clients to fill out the answers to. Some PR folks may disagree with me on this, but from my experience, this interview method creates more work for everyone involved and the answers to the questions are never as good as if the reporter spent 5 minutes on the phone asking the questions themselves.

Well, that’s my list. I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who read this who will disagree with some of my points. Conversely, I’m sure there will be others who feel I left out some critical insights. Either way, I welcome your feedback!