News: News Archives
Changing News Cycle Creates Opportunities for Communicating Health News
Ed Tobias, assistant managing editor at Associated Press Broadcast
[Photo by Jennifer Leigh Gibson]
The needs of a 24-hour news cycle have created opportunities for innovative public information officers who can help plan multimedia content, said a panel of top reporters and editors convened by EurekAlert!, the global news service operated by AAAS, and Spectrum Science Communications.
Glenn O'Neal, health and medicine editor at USA Today, explained that since round-the-clock news content is needed for multiple formats, public information officers (PIOs) can help reporters by suggesting ways to provide more audio and visual content when pitching story ideas. "We just don't think of USA Today as a newspaper anymore," he said. "We have a daily circulation of a little over 2.2 million, but we reach 5.5 million people every day, when you add up the online visitors, print, and mobile alerts for cell phones."
Sally Squires, Washington Post nutrition and health writer and nationally syndicated Lean Plate Club columnist, explained that she and other reporters are now required to submit content to their news organization's Web site. "We are now regularly seeing print reporters updating stories online before they appear in print and also providing multimedia elements for these Web-based stories," she said.
O'Neal and Squires were two of the five reporters and editors invited to take part in "Communicating Health News Across the Media Spectrum," EurekAlert!'s fourth professional development seminar for public information officers (PIOs). Some 125 attendees attended the 2 November event at the National Press Club to hear how they could get health news from medical centers, universities, government agencies and other newsmakers to the audience for news publications and broadcasts.
The panel agreed that PIOs can help reporters as they navigate what Squires termed "21st century news gathering" by thinking more about how the reporter might visually represent the story through multimedia, including photos, video, graphics, and animation. While the journalists aren't likely to use the PIOs' material verbatim, they said, the material often can be woven into stories, charts, and multimedia presentations.
"Think of what we'll need in terms of presenting the story to the reader, viewer, listener, all of the above," recommended Ed Tobias, assistant managing editor at Associated Press Broadcast.
"Let us know what's available in terms of multimedia content or what could be put together quickly," said Michael Waldholz, managing editor of global health, science, and environment at Bloomberg News.
Adam Voiland, health, medicine, and nutrition reporter at U.S. News & World Report; and Rea Blakey, moderator and media training consultant for Spectrum Science Communications
[Photo by Jennifer Leigh Gibson]
"When e-mailing a press release, I'd like to see four or five supporting Web links that provide background information, perhaps an opposing opinion or policy-related statement," said Adam Voiland, health, medicine, and nutrition reporter at U.S. News & World Report.
E-mail was resoundingly recommended as the preferred form of communication by members of the panel. "I look at every e-mail and I can tell pretty quickly if it's a story idea I want to pursue," said O'Neal. "I don't respond to every e-mail because I don't have the time. If it's interesting to me but not in my area, I will forward to a colleague."
Tobias asked that subject lines contain a brief summary. "The subject line should read 'Study Says... ' with six to seven words" that describe the importance of the study. "I want to see the nut upfront, not seven paragraphs down."
Voiland recommended that PIOs not use buzzwords such as "breakthrough" in the e-mail subject line, since he deletes e-mails that sound "too exciting." He is also frustrated when PIOs send the same e-mail to every reporter on the U.S News & World Report staff.
Waldholz reminded PIOs that relationships with individual reporters and editors are still important, despite the absence of regular phone conversations. "Even in this electronic world, it's still interpersonal. I would recommend that PIOs try to get to know individual reporters.."
During the lengthy question and answer session that followed the panel presentations, Allison Whitney, director of print and online communication at Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center, asked how to get her university experts used by reporters.
"This is where relationships really do pay off," answered Squires. "Get to know the interests and venues of reporters. There are really lots of ways to slice and dice a story." Squires recommended that PIOs ask experts to give reporters their full contact information, including home and cell phone numbers, so that they can be reached on deadline.
"The key thing for experts is availability and being good at what they do," replied Tobias. "Prep your experts so that it works really well the first time. We remember that and will come back to you if you provide good sources. You should also be aware of what's happening in the news. When there's a spot story on avian bird flu, contact me quickly so that we can use your expert."
"Find researchers who will comment on other studies in their field," recommended Voiland.
Wendy Lawton, senior science writer at Brown University, asked about technology investments by institutions that could help reporters.
"If you have the ability to do interviews by satellite and ISDN lines, you're doing great," said Tobias. "If we're unable to get to your location, we will sometimes use your video or photo, although we'd rather not. Working with your professors to make them comfortable with the technology is something else that's really helpful."
"I don't want you to create graphics for me, but we do need the graphic information," said O'Neal. "We need access to whatever you have and your visual representations."
The EurekAlert! seminar was moderated by Rea Blakey, media training consultant for Spectrum Science Communications. Blakey is host of a national medical show "Discovery Health CME," which airs on the Discovery Health Channel.
The event was organized by Rahman Culver, communications officer, and Jill Grigg, marketing associate, both of EurekAlert! at AAAS, in collaboration with John Seng, president of Spectrum Science Communications.
"Spectrum is thrilled to work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and EurekAlert! on sponsoring now our fourth program," Seng said. "We have a very deep passion for the subject of healthcare, as it affects everyone who's ever lived, at anytime, anyplace."
"We appreciate all the great work you all are doing in communicating science news and we're very happy to be able to put on an event like this for you," Patrick McGinness, director of EurekAlert!, told the PIOs.
EurekAlert! is an online, global news service launched by AAAS in 1996. EurekAlert! provides a central place through which universities, medical centers, journals, government agencies, corporations and other organizations engaged in research can bring their news to more than 5,700 reporters worldwide who use the service and to the public. EurekAlert! features news and resources focused on all areas of science, medicine and technology.
7 November 2007