The ME Journalist Survey 2011: What the region’s media really wants
If we ignore the fact that some journalists are just impossible to please – I’m not naming any names, but you know who you are; at least you should do… And if you don’t give me a call, and I’ll put you straight – there are some interesting findings in the Insight/MediaSource Middle East Journalist Survey 2011.
Its aim is to establish how happy journalists are with the way they receive information from both the public and private sectors, and to provide a “snapshot” of the mood in journalism across the Middle East.
Two years ago, when the survey was last conducted, the story was all about economic turmoil. This year’s events in the region – and to some extent around the world – have been dominated by the Arab Spring. The past couple of years have also seen the explosive growth of social media, a factor that has been hotly debated here as elsewhere as to whether it was the cause or just a factor in the anti-government protests that spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
Much of the survey is on rather more prosaic matters than politics. The chief bugbear of journalists seems to be the “irrelevant nature” of press releases that they are sent. Many journalists delete the messages without reading them, one adding: “One learns to realise which PR agencies scatter their releases across all media. Carpet-bombing press releases never work.”
Even so, journalists say that press releases are the number one source for stories, outstripping media briefings, company websites and even tips from social media.
“Both English and Arabic journalists prefer to be pitched stories by email,” says the report. “A small minority of Arabic-speaking journalists prefer an initial approach by phone.”
The message is clear: use email, but use it as a rifle, not a shotgun.
As for social media, it turns out that Arabic-speaking journalists, who make up half the survey, prefer Facebook, while English-language media prefer both Facebook and Twitter. More English-speaking journalists ‘tweet’ rather than ‘follow’, a percentage that is reversed amongst Arab press. Most journalists seem to use Facebook to keep in touch with their friends rather than use it for sources, with only a few using it to interact with PR contacts. However, everyone in the survey agreed that their organisations should use social media more.
On the PR profession they were rather complimentary, saying that most are good and that “there is a greater understanding of journalists’ needs”. Arabic-speaking media was a little more scathing. One disgruntled hack did mention that: “I sincerely believe many PR agencies in the region do more harm than good for their clients,” something we cannot endorse.
The most useful comment seems to be this: “Understand that when I ask for information, I need it now, our deadlines are tight. And if you can’t get it, tell me – keep me updated so I can plan accordingly.”
The relationship between journalists and PRs is always going to be testing. But greater understanding, transparency and honesty on both sides is always going to be helpful. Next week I might say what I think of journalists in the region (For the record – call me and I will say thank you).