My first journalism writing class was sophomore year of college. It was an intro level class and the first in which we were given writing assignments in my public relations curriculum. My eagerness to write was met with disappointment on the first day of class. The instructor walked us through the syllabus and explained that writing would be a large component of the class, but a larger component would be our ability to recall news stories.
She gave us a list of local and national publications she would be pulling questions from for weekly news tests. At the time, this seemed absurd to me. How could I possibly be expected to read so many publications before class and have the ability to know which stories she was going to ask us about on the test?
It took me a couple weeks into the class, but I realized the “what stories is she going to ask us about?” mentality was that of a student, not a professional. I began reading the news to be informed rather than memorizing headlines for a test, and not surprisingly, my efforts showed. Not only did I begin to do well on the tests, I began to incorporate something into my daily routine that would carry into my professional life after college.
In public relations, media junkie is an assumed character trait. A large portion of our services is in media relations so it’s imperative to know not just what news stories are being covered, but who is covering them, where they are covered and when, if possible, can you use those stories to benefit a client.
We have adopted a system in our office that allows us to do this efficiently and effectively. While we all read major publications, we each specialize, of sorts, in smaller publications to be consulted on when needed. This ensures that we are reading the news to be informed rather than scanning with the “what stories are going to be asked about” mentality like a student studying for a test.
Reading the news to be informed, rather than to “pass” is essential to success in a PR firm. That is because in a PR firm, no news is irrelevant. You can’t just read what’s relevant to public relations—you have to read what is relevant to every one of your clients, and be able to know what’s relevant for future clients as well.
It’s clear to me now, my journalism writing instructor wasn’t giving us news tests just for her to have an assignment to grade—she was shaping us into credible communications professionals. While I’m still bitter about how often she used sports scores for extra credit questions, I can’t deny the incredibly beneficial character trait she instilled in me: reader of the news.
- Bailee Bowman